While menopause signals major changes in a female’s life, both physically and emotionally, many women wonder, “Where did my sex drive go?” While libido decreases gradually as men and women age, menopause can bring about a significant decrease in sex drive for women in mid-life.
Approximately 2000 studies have been conducted on women, and loss of sex drive. One survey by Siecus, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States found that as much as 45% of women reported a decrease in desire for sexual intimacy after menopause.
The Impact of Low Libido in Women
For some women, the lack of sexual desire in mid-life appears to have no serious impact on overall quality of life, relationship satisfaction, or general self worth. For others, the decrease in desire for physical intimacy can be serious, affecting many aspects of life, as well as mental and emotional health.
Currently, about 16 million women nationwide, aged 50 and older report experiencing low libido symptoms, while four million express significant distress over the lack of sex drive, (including loss of sense of self and sexuality). Despite the fact that many women report a loss of libido after menopause, only about one-third to one-half report feeling distress over these changes, for which they need help. In fact, many women either accept the change in diminished sex drive as normal, or simply fail to address the issue altogether.
A 1998 survey reported that there were over 477 million postmenopausal women worldwide.
What Low Libido Feels Like — Signs of Low Libido
- Lack of sexual thoughts and feelings in general
- Arousal takes much longer
- Not as sensitive/responsive to physical touch
- Difficulty achieving orgasm/weak orgasm
What’s Causing Low Libido—It’s Not Me, It’s My Low “E”
In menopausal, and post-menopausal women, many of the symptoms associated with the change, including loss of libido, directly stem from a hormonal imbalance. Other secondary factors including physical, psychological and relational issues impact the drive for sex during menopause as well.
Reduced Libido and Hormones
Three major hormones present in a woman’s body control the female sex drive. Any reduction or imbalance in these directly affects the availability of energy and desire for sexual activity.
Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout a woman’s life and play an important role in sexuality.
- Increases physical sensation and blood flow to the genital area
- Helps produce vaginal lubrication necessary for sexual activity involving intercourse
- Maintains healthy, elastic vaginal tissue
As the body produces less estrogen, symptoms occur that may lead to loss of libido in women. These include, night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irregular menstrual periods. Some women even experience painful uterine contractions after orgasm, as well as urine leakage during sex.
Progesterone hormones help maintain proper sexual health as well. Fatigue, irregular periods, and other symptoms throughout menopause can contribute to loss of libido when progesterone levels decrease.
Testosterone is produced less as women age. This drop in androgens may lower sex drive in menopause.
Other Causes of Low Libido in Women
While hormonal changes are often the reason for low libido in women throughout menopause, there may be other physical, emotional, or relational factors that contribute to symptoms as well.
- Painful physical conditions
- Vaginal dryness
- Anemia (causes loss of energy/fatigue)
- Sexual dysfunction of partner
- Loss of emotional intimacy between partners
What Can Be Done About Low Libido?
Loss of libido can be a serious consequence of menopause along with many other physical and psychological changes. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available, natural and pharmaceutical, as well as lifestyle changes that can help.
The following foods may help restore libido:
- Foods that contain zinc including, oysters, liver, red meat, and kidney beans
- Foods with high magnesium including leafy greens, almonds, and buckwheat
- Foods high in protein including lean meat, fish, nuts, and dairy
- Foods that contain soy products including edamame, tofu, miso, and soy milk
Exercises That Can Help
- Yoga increases flexibility and promotes relaxation
- Kegel exercises strengthen vaginal muscles
- Aerobics improve heart health and circulation
- Stretching promotes relaxation, relieves stress, and improves muscle tone
Treatment may also include:
- Estrogen replacement through cream, pill, or patch applications
- Testosterone treatment for loss of androgens through menopause
- Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant may be used to treat low sex-drive in women
- Natural dietary supplements may increase blood flow to the genitals, stimulate dopamine (feel good chemical) production in the brain, and help increase levels of estradiol naturally.
While women experience many changes, both physical and psychological throughout menopause, these don’t have to permanently alter healthy sexual function. Through a series of lifestyle changes and therapeutic interventions, women can navigate the many symptoms associated with menopause, comfortably and confidently.