5 surprising causes of low libido that you need to know
It’s not uncommon for many women in midlife to suffer from low libido. But, despite what Google may say, there are many factors (other than desire) that influence our sex drive.
From fluctuating hormone levels and stress to vitamin deficiencies, our body is a complex system and sexual desire isn’t a switch that we can turn on or off. Understanding the reasons for low libido is essential to maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
If in doubt, consult with your GP or healthcare provider and remember, keeping an open line of communication with your partner is equally important when discussing issues around sex and libido.
Understanding low libido
Low libido can be caused by several factors, such as acute stress, poor mental health, strained relationship dynamics, medications and sleep.
“The amount of sex that other people are having is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is how much sex you and your partner want to have,” says Zoe Sever, a sexologist, clinical nurse and researcher, who is working with the Menopause app Stella. “Up to half of menopausal women experience a decline in libido, while others find no change and some even report an increase. Remember, libido gradually decreases with age and having difficulty with sex doesn’t make you dysfunctional or abnormal.”
Relationship dynamics often ebb and flow in long-term relationships, so it’s not unusual for one partner to be more interested in sex than the other, particularly when there is high stress or abrupt changes in routine or lifestyle.
Even if our partner seems less interested in sex than we do, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t reflect on our desirability. Instead, it can be helpful to open a judgement-free conversation about external factors that might be impacting libido.
5 surprising causes of low libido
Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones, which play a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism. When iodine levels are insufficient, the thyroid gland struggles to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones, leading to a condition known as hypothyroidism, which can impact our sex drive.
Medical advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that hypothyroidism can contribute to fatigue or weakness, weight gain, decreased appetite and a loss of sexual interest.
Some vitamins are harder to obtain through food if we’re following a diet that restricts certain food groups. This is where supplementation helps plug mineral and vitamin gaps. The best check for iodine levels is through a blood test, via a GP.
A study from the peer-reviewed journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that anti-depressants, in particular, had a negative impact on women’s libido. The research found that antidepressant medications caused difficulty with desire, arousal, and orgasm for a large percentage of women.
It’s crucial to discuss any concerns with a GP if we suspect that a certain medication is affecting our libido.
Sleep is essential for overall health, and inadequate or poor-quality sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and decreased energy levels. This can diminish the desire for sexual activity and make it challenging to engage in intimate moments.
A study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2015, revealed that sleep deprivation has been associated with reduced sexual desire and arousal in women.
Sleep also plays a crucial role in regulating hormones, including those related to sexual function and a lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of hormones like cortisol, which can lead to stress and anxiety, putting a dampener on sexual desire.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is essential to the body and our hormone levels as it impacts the endocrine system, which regulates hormone production. It also influences the production of sex hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen.
“Levels of these vitamins can deplete in the winter,” says nutritional therapist Alli Godbold. “Vitamins such as B and D are especially important for healthy hormone function and deficiency can exacerbate hormonal symptoms. Supporting our hormonal health is therefore especially important during winter and a supplement can help provide the boost our bodies need.”
Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure, dietary sources, or supplements can be crucial for supporting healthy sexual function.
Testosterone is a key hormone associated with sexual desire and arousal in both genders, although it is present in smaller quantities in women than in men. In women, low testosterone can be associated with vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse.
“While sexual dysfunction tends to become more prevalent as we age, it reaches its peak severity in midlife women, typically aged between 45 and 64 years,” says Dr Elise Dallas, a GP who specialises in women’s and menopausal health at The London General Practice. “Insufficient testosterone levels in women can lead to a spectrum of physical and emotional consequences.”
Addressing the underlying causes and, if necessary, speaking to a GP about hormone replacement therapy, can help restore healthy testosterone levels and improve your libido.