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Low Sex Drive in Women: 9 Causes & 7 Simple Solutions

Reviewed by Wendee Nicole MS, MA
 
A couple walking through a field together holding hands.

If you have trouble feeling "in the mood," you're not the only one. Low sex drive in women is one of the most commonly reported sexual concerns.[1] Whether it's caused by pregnancy, menopause, stress, or fatigue, loss of libido in women can happen at any time of life.

If the concern is persistent, there is even a fancy term to describe it — hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).

In one sense, having a low sex drive is only an issue if you are struggling with it. If a lack of interest in sex causes distress or affects your relationship or quality of life, simple actions like changing your diet, herbs and supplements, or trying sex therapy can turn that around.

Different factors can reduce sex drive in women, some temporary, some permanent, and understanding the cause is key to solving the issue. Once you understand the reason or have some clues, you can take positive steps to increase your libido.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Libido in Women?

For most women, it is common to have fluctuations in sex drive and sexual activity. Interest in sex can ebb and flow at various times of life and even during the course of your menstrual cycle.[2] As many as 43 percent of women experience occasional or situational low libido, while only about 10 percent have chronic low libido.[1]

43% of women experience occasional low libido.

The symptoms of chronic low sex drive (also called female sexual interest or arousal disorder) include:

  • Very little or no interest in sex for six months or more
  • Never or rarely having sexual thoughts or fantasies
  • No interest in initiating sex
  • Lack of pleasure from genital touch
  • Difficulty enjoying sex

Causes of Low Sex Drive

Once you understand and address the root cause of your low sex drive, you can take steps to turn it around.

Sex drive can dip for various reasons in women of all ages. Common causes of low libido and sexual dysfunction in women can range from physical and hormonal changes, emotional factors, and relationship issues. Below are the most common causes of low libido.

Age

Women's estrogen and testosterone levels naturally drop as they get older, so it makes sense that age affects libido.[3] And yes, women make the male sex hormone testosterone too, just in smaller amounts than men.

Getting older doesn't mean you won't find enjoyment in the bedroom. Read on!

But there is also good news: Women's enjoyment of sex can increase with age. A survey of over 2,600 women found that women have their best orgasms after age 35, perhaps due to a rise in self-confidence and comfort in the bedroom.[4]

Tip: Work on self-love and confidence by embracing your age. Wearing clothing that makes you feel gorgeous, learning a new skill, and even practicing meditation and mindfulness can help on this journey.

Medications

Prescription meds can affect your sex life, especially certain contraceptives and antidepressants.

When it comes to birth control, studies link hormonal injections, implants, rings, and the copper IUD with a lower sex drive.[5] Some antidepressants, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), can even reduce your interest in sex or make it difficult to become aroused.[6, 7]

Tip: Talk to your doctor about exploring your options, which might include changing or reducing your medication or using natural options. Never quit antidepressants cold turkey!

Health Disorders

Sometimes health conditions can affect arousal or interest in sex, but there are ways to help.

Several health conditions or chronic illnesses can affect your sex life. For example, diabetes affects circulation and blood flow to the genitals, making it harder to get aroused. Depression is another condition that can affect libido.[8] Various types of heart disease, including high blood pressure, may impact sexual function in women too.[9]

Tip: If you have an illness or injury that coincided with a change in libido, talk to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider about it. It could be medication-related, or it may have a psychological underpinning. Understanding the root cause is the first step in turning it around.

Pain or Injury

If you experience pain during sex, it's likely that your interest in sex will wane. However, it's a two-way street: A lack of desire can lead to vaginal dryness, which can cause pain during intercourse. Dryness is not the only cause of pain during sex, however.

Tip: Injury or impact to the pelvic floor, whether from childbirth, surgery, or an accident, may interfere with your enjoyment of sex, but there are ways to strengthen them.

Most pregnant women do Kegel exercises for the pelvic floor, but these same exercises can bring blood flow to this region and improve libido.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings major hormonal changes, which affects libido in some women. However, it's not always hormones to blame for low sex drive.

In one study, pregnant women reported reduced interest in sex for reasons ranging from feeling less attractive to fears about the baby's well-being (although sex does not harm babies in the womb).[10]

You could even feel a lack of interest in sex due to pregnancy fatigue. Conversely, some women experience no changes to libido during pregnancy; some even feel increased desire.

Tip: If you are experiencing pregnancy-related low libido, it will likely subside when life gets back to normal post-delivery. You may need to schedule dates with your partner to have time away from the baby!

Menopause

Menopause, which typically occurs in the early to mid-50s, brings a drop in sex hormones such as estrogen. Lower hormone levels can cause vaginal dryness as well as a thinning of the vaginal tissues — both of which can make sex uncomfortable or painful without lubrication.[11]

The emotional changes, including irritability or mood swings, that sometimes come with menopause can also contribute to low libido. Not all menopausal women have a low sex drive. Some enjoy sex as much or more than before.

Tip: If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, a water-based, chemical-free lubricant can help to increase pleasure.[12] Certain herbs and supplements can help ease menopausal symptoms. Check out our Top Herbs for Menopause article.

Stress

There are many factors that cause stress. Find out what triggers your stress and work on techniques to reduce it.

Sexual desire is not only physical but mental and emotional, too. For both men and women, chronic stress can affect general health as well as sexual health.

In one study, researchers had women watch an erotic film. The study found that women with chronic high stress had lower arousal levels than women with average stress. Two main things affected women's stress-related sex drive: psychological factors such as distraction and hormonal factors such as higher cortisol levels.[13] The researchers noted that chronic high stress could affect many functions in the body, including blood flow to the genitals, mental state, and hormone levels.

Tip: Find different ways to relieve your stress and lower your cortisol levels. You could try meditation, aerobic exercise, breathing exercises, or even eating stress-relieving foods. For more ideas, check out our stress management article.

Anxiety & Depression

Feeling anxious or blue can put a damper on anyone's libido. When we're anxious, we go into "fight or flight" mode, releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones that interfere with sexual response.

Women with social phobia, according to one study, are more likely to have a chronic low sex drive, pain during sex, fewer sexual thoughts, and less frequent sex than women without this type of anxiety.[14]

When it comes to depression, a greater severity of symptoms corresponds with a lower sex drive, according to a study of 1,184 women.[15]

Tip: Try to find a counselor who you can trust to discuss any issues leading to anxiety and depression, whether deep-rooted or more recent. Be kind to yourself; anxiety and depression can affect anyone at any age, but they can also be turned around with counseling, support, and even dietary changes.

Relationship Issues

If you have tension around certain issues in your relationship, it's natural that this stress will find its way into the bedroom. Also, if your partner has a high sex drive and yours is low, that can create tension by itself. Seeing a therapist or counselor can help you get to the root of the concern.

Tip: Try cuddling without having sex to take away any pressure, and with time, gradually increasing the level of physical contact over a period of weeks.

7 Natural Remedies for Low Sex Drive

Check the following natural remedies for low libido; they don't have the side effects of medications. Trying out several (rather than just one or two) might be your best bet for revving up your sex drive.

1. Exercise

Getting regular exercise can reduce stress, increase blood flow, and flood the body with feel-good hormones like endorphins. It's no wonder that exercise can help boost libido, too.

Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Science shows exercise increases sexual arousal!

One study found improvements in sexual arousal and satisfaction in women who took part in a month-long exercise intervention program.[16] In addition to preserving flexibility and cardiovascular health, regular exercise may even increase satisfaction in the bedroom. For ideas, check out 6 Exercises to Stimulate Sex Drive.

2. Modify Your Diet

Check this out! A plant-based diet can actually improve your sexual health.

Sticking to a wholesome, plant-based diet can increase your overall vitality, including between the sheets.[17] One review found that a diet rich in vegetable proteins and antioxidants improves sexual health in women, while a diet that includes trans fats, high-glycemic foods, and animal protein can negatively affect fertility in both women and men.[17]

Although fertility and sex drive are two separate things, indicators of fertility, like hormone levels, directly affect sex drive.

Avoid alcohol, which can reduce the body's ability to feel aroused, known as psychological arousal.[18]

3. Minimize Stress

Stress and sex don't mix well, whether it's work stress, money stress, or relationship stress. Of course, you can't snap your fingers and make stress disappear.

To keep it at bay, make these practices a regular part of your life: Practice mindfulness or take a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR); stay physically active; practice deep breathing, and be sure to take time out for fun and relaxation throughout the week.

4. Take Herbs & Supplements

Some herbs and supplements fit the bill as natural libido boosters for women. Make sure whichever herb or supplement you take is vegan, organic, and sourced from high-quality ingredients.

Traditional healing systems offer several options for low sex drive in women, including:

You can find even more options in our 10 Best Herbs for Boosting Female Sex Drive article.

For the maximum libido-stimulating effect, you may be interested in trying Female Fuzion®. It's powerfully formulated to regulate hormone balance and support female vitality. It includes a blend of ashwagandha, maca, tongkat ali, wildcrafted suma, and other herbs.

5. Try Sex Therapy or Relationship Counseling

A sex therapist or couples' counselor can help you find ways to jump-start your sex life — and your libido. Maybe you need to discover new sexual techniques that work for you or overcome emotional roadblocks that prevent you from enjoying sex.

6. Practice Positive Self-Talk

If you struggle with issues around body image, it's especially important for you to practice positive self-talk in the bedroom. "Self-talk" refers to your mental chatter, which is not necessarily spoken out loud.

Remember that negative thoughts about your body are simply thoughts. They don't always reflect the truth about your body. Look for ways to feel beautiful in your skin, and you will likely find it easier to feel sexual pleasure.

7. Take the Pressure Off

Sometimes the pressure to feel sexy can be a libido-crusher in itself. To take the pressure off, try being affectionate with your partner. This might mean kissing, holding hands, or cuddling in bed with or without clothes.

Enjoy the closeness and intimacy, which might (or might not) light a spark for you. The trick is to have no expectations or judgments and to relax into it and accept yourself, wherever you are.

Points to Remember

Low sex drive can become an issue at any stage of life. Symptoms include very little or no interest in sex for six months or more; never or rarely having sexual thoughts or fantasies; no interest in initiating sex; and difficulty enjoying sex. Low libido is only a concern if you feel that it affects your quality of life and relationships.

Various factors can affect low libido. These include physical changes in your body whether from aging or illness, certain medications, hormonal changes including pregnancy or menopause, and psychological changes such as stress, depression, anxiety, or relationship issues.

You can take steps to boost your libido naturally. Various remedies include getting regular exercise, reducing stress, taking libido-boosting herbs and supplements like ashwagandha, maca, or shilajit, talking to a sex therapist or couples' counselor, and practicing positive self-talk.

What worked for you? Have you had a decrease in libido and something you tried made a difference? We'd love to hear your story.

References (18)
  1. Kingsberg SA, Rezaee RL. Hypoactive sexual desire in women. Menopause. 2013;20(12):1284-1300.
  2. Warnock JJ. Female hypoactive sexual desire disorder: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. CNS Drugs. 2002;16(11):745-753.
  3. Wåhlin-Jacobsen S, et al. Is there a correlation between androgens and sexual desire in women? J Sex Med. 2015;12(2):358-373.
  4. Borreli L. The female orgasm gets better with age: how confidence helps you have the best sex of your life. Medical Daily Website. Accessed 7 Mar 2019.
  5. Boozalis A, et al. Sexual desire and hormonal contraception. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;127(3):563-572.
  6. Higgins A, et al. Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug Health Patient Saf. 2010;2:141-150.
  7. Corliss J. When an SSRI medication impacts your sex life. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Accessed 7 Mar 2019.
  8. Enzlin P, et al. Sexual dysfunction in women with Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(5):780-785.
  9. Steinke EE. Sexual dysfunction in women with cardiovascular disease: what do we know? J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2010;25(2):151-158.
  10. Staruch M, et al. Sexual activity during pregnancy. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2016;37(1):53-58.
  11. Menopause and Sexuality. Office on Women's Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. Updated 22 May 2018.Accessed 7 Mar 2019.
  12. Nicole W. A question for women's health: chemicals in feminine hygiene products and personal lubricants. Env Health Perspect. 2014;122(3):A70-A75.
  13. Hamilton LD, Meston CM. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2013;10(10):2443-2454.
  14. Baldi I, Corretti G. The relationship between anxiety disorders and sexual dysfunction. Psychiatric Times. 2007;24(9):58-59.
  15. Fabre LF, Smith LC. The effect of major depression on sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2012;9(1):231-239.
  16. Stanton AM, et al. The effects of exercise on sexual function in women. Sex Med Rev. 2018;6(4):548-557.
  17. Silva T, et al. Food with influence in the sexual and reproductive health. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2018.
  18. Beckman LJ, Ackerman KT. Women, alcohol, and sexuality. Recent Dev Alcohol. 1995;12:267-285.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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