Lifestyle

6 factors that affect sexual drive in women – and what to do about them

Dr. Laura Sporl - Courtesy photo/MultiCare
Dr. Laura Sporl
— image credit: Courtesy photo/MultiCare

By Dr. Laura Sporl
MultiCare Health System

A lot of things factor into a woman's decreased sexual drive: lifestyle, chronic disease and even medications.

In medical school, many physicians aren't formally trained to ask women about their sex drive. (I know I wasn't.) But this topic is something that I've started to include while taking a patient's general health history. If you open up with questions, most patients are willing to talk about it.

Many women ask why it occurs. And more importantly, what can they do about it?

Here are a few of the factors that affect sexual drive in women.

Lifestyle: The first thing people have to look at is their lifestyle. A lot of women are working long hours, burning the candle at both ends, and they're tired by the time they come home. Fatigue is also an important factor. Make it a priority to make time for yourself and your partner.

Chronic disease: If somebody has chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension, sometimes medications can affect some of the aspects of lovemaking and libido, as well as just the chronic disease itself. With diabetes and hypertension, you know you have vascular constriction, so achieving orgasm is harder.

Prescription medication: If prescription drugs are affecting your sex life, talk to your psychiatrist or therapist about a "drug holiday." You're on your medication for a week, then you're off for the weekend when you can enjoy your partner. You then resume your medication the following week and so on. But make sure you talk with your provider first before making any changes.

Hormones: A lot of women will say "I need my hormones tested because I just don't have a sex drive." Testing hormone levels is not going to really tell us anything. And actually adding back hormone therapy does not increase the sex drive. Unfortunately, to date, there is no magic pill that will increase our libido. There are some reports of testosterone helping, but in super-physiologic doses – the patch that is used for males—that will help with libido. However, this dose will cause a lot of unwanted side effects. DHEAS has been shown to help with women who have an adrenal insufficiency syndrome.

Psychological: Many women have experienced sexual abuse or verbal abuse, or some other kind of abuse, so they need extra special counseling.

Menopause: For women who are menopausal, sexual responses slow down when you get older. Yes, you can have an orgasm. Yes, you can have a wonderful sex life. But it's going to take time. It's going to take patience. It's going to take more foreplay. And it's going to take communication with your partner.

Laura Sporl, MD, is an OB/GYN with the MultiCare Northshore Clinic, 4215 49th Ave. N.E. in Tacoma, or by phone at 253-459-7699. Learn more about Dr. Sporl at www.multicare.org/doctors/laura-sporl

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