Is your idea of getting hot and steamy taking a shower after spin class? Join the club. Many women discover their libido is lacking, especially as they get older.
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That’s not necessarily a problem, as long as you’re comfortable with the (in)frequency of your romantic dalliances. But it can be frustrating if you miss the intimacy that goes along with sex. And if you and your partner have mismatched libidos, that can be a big source of relationship strife.
Luckily, treatments are available to rev up a sluggish sex drive, says women’s health specialist Holly Thacker, MD.
Low libido in women
There are all sorts of reasons your sex drive might have shifted into neutral. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can do a number on your hormones. Stress, illness, medications and relationship challenges can also interfere with sexual desire.
If you notice a dramatic dip in your arousal level, first rule out any medical causes. Yes, it might feel weird talking to your doctor about getting frisky, but medical professionals have heard it all. Your Ob/Gyn or primary care doctor or women’s health specialist can pinpoint problems such as medication side effects or hormonal changes (like perimenopause) that might be interfering with intimacy.
Yet many women experience reduced sexual desire for no obvious reason — a condition sometimes called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). And in the last few years there has been more research and medical options for this condition. “We now have some excellent options,” Dr. Thacker says.
Medications for hypoactive sexual desire disorder
Several treatments are available to turn up a woman’s arousal:
This prescription pill has been available to treat HSDD since 2015. Flibanserin is taken nightly and can ramp up sex drive, says Dr. Thacker. It may cause drowsiness and shouldn’t be taken within 2 hours of drinking alcohol.
The downside is it takes about 2 months for the medication to start working. But for many women (and their satisfied partners), the treatment is worth the wait.
This on-demand prescription medication was approved to treat HSDD in 2019. Women inject it under the skin at least 45 minutes before they anticipate getting frisky.
Dr. Thacker notes that as many as 40% of women experience nausea after taking the drug. So she suggests this workaround: Take it right before bed and cancel your morning meetings. Since the medication lasts 16 hours, you’re likely to sleep through any discomfort and can enjoy the amorous effects when the sun comes up.
This hormone suppository can ease vaginal dryness and discomfort in postmenopausal women. Some women with low libido find it increases genital sensitivity (in a good way).
Testosterone can treat low libido in women — but it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so this “off-label” use is controversial. It can cause side effects, including acne, hair loss, facial hair growth and mood changes.
Other ways to increase sex drive
Medications aren’t always the best way to deal with a limp libido. Sometimes, low sex drive is related to psychological issues, such as poor body image, past negative sexual experiences, trust issues or relationship problems. In those cases, it can help to work through your thoughts and feelings with a mental health professional.
And some women just need a crash course in sex education, Dr. Thacker says. Learning the ins and outs of your sexual anatomy — including the importance of clitoral and G-spot stimulation — can also improve desire, she adds. After all, if it doesn’t feel good, you won’t crave it.
And remember that you can have a healthy sex drive without being a seductress. “Most women just aren’t thinking about sex that often. They have a more responsive reaction to sex,” Dr. Thacker says.
You don’t have to be the initiator to enjoy a roll in the hay. You just have to be open to it, she adds. “It’s like exercise: You may not feel like doing it, but once you start, you’re usually glad you did.”