Loss of libido is one of the most common symptoms of menopause.
Many women report experiencing a wonderful sex life leading up to and after menopause without fear of pregnancy although you should use some form of birth control until you’ve gone 12 months without menstruating and practicing safe sex is a necessity. However, for some women low desire becomes a concern. The purpose of this article is to explore why.
There are many things that affect libido including hormones, aging, life circumstances, psychological problems and physiological problems.
Low desire is a reduction or lack of interest and desire in sexual activity, which may, in some cases, negatively impact on your relationship and causes worry and anxiety.
Lack of sexual desire differs from the inability to become aroused or achieve orgasm, however, menopausal women may also experience these symptoms of sexual dysfunction. It is important to understand the difference between the two..
Risk factors that make it more likely that you will encounter a lack of sexual desire include:
- Experiencing symptoms of perimenopause
- Are postmenopausal or have undergone surgical menopause
- Are experiencing relationship fatigue
Your Hormones During Perimenopause
A decline in the levels of 2 major hormones can be a factor in the decline of sexual drive and energy.
Estrogen plays a major part in female sexuality by enhancing sensations, preserving the health of vaginal tissues and aiding in the production of vaginal lubrication.
During the approach to menopause (perimenopause), your body begins to produce less estrogen which causes symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, irregular periods and vaginal dryness, all of which can play a role in your lack of sexual desire.
When levels of progesterone are too low during perimenopause, this results in symptoms such as bloating and water retention, irregular periods, depression and fatigue which can again play a role in your lack of libido.
Testosterone is the main hormone for sexual desire, so when the body begins to produce lower levels of this hormone it may cause lack of desire.
Pain related conditions such as Vaginal/Uterine Prolapse
Vaginal dryness, pain, irritation
Changes in self esteem and body image
Concerns about aging
Feelings about sex, low response to sexual stimuli
Psychological disease (i.e. depression, mood swings, anxiety)
Changes in partners physical health
Intimate relationship changes
Availability of partner
Lack of communication between partners
Changing social role
Low sex drive in partner
Major life changes – trauma, bereavement
Foods rich in magnesium, zinc, soy and protein are recommended.
Self relaxation techniques ( relaxation, stress relief)
Stretching (relaxation, stress relief, improved muscle tone)
Yoga (increased flexibility, relaxation)
Kegel Exercises (strengthens vaginal muscles)
Aerobics (heart health, circulation)
Massage, aromatherapy (relaxation, stress relief)
Possible Treatments For Loss Of Libido
Hormone Creams – containing estrogen can be applied to the vagina in order to increase blood flow. Increased blood flow will allow for heightened sensitivity and easier orgasm.
Hormone Replacement Therapy HRT – whilst HRT will not chemically boost your libido, it can help to reduce other symptoms. You may or may not be a candidate for HRT.
Natural Menopause Relief – studies have shown benefits in the use of herbs for menopause.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy – research shows that testosterone plays a part in the female sex drive. You will need to speak with your Healthcare Professional about what testosterone treatment might be available to you and to discuss the side effects. If this is something you are thinking about you may find an article written for MHM by Dr Karen Morton entitled ‘Testosterone for Libido – It’s not for everyone’, helpful.
Remember that your partner will also be going through changes as part of the aging process. Older men sometimes need stimulation to attain an erection and have a longer refractory period.
Most importantly is the necessity to maintain open communication with your partner and the need to work together to find a solution.
If you and/or your partner become distressed about your loss of libido, explore solutions with your healthcare professional. Sometimes healthcare professionals will refer you to a therapist experienced in low sexual desire.
Studd, J. (Annual Review 1998) Loss of Libido and Menopause. The Management of Menopause. Partenon Publishing.
Decreased Desire. Retrieved from http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/decreased-desire
Sex after the menopause. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/women4060/Pages/sex-after-the-menopause.aspx
Low Libido and Testosterone Therapy (Feb 2012) https://www.menopause.org.au/for-women/information-sheets/36-low-libido-and-testosterone-therapy
Reddish, S. (May 2002) Loss of Libido in menopausal women. Management issues. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12043546