A woman's desire for sex is based on a complex interaction of many components affecting intimacy, including physical well-being, emotional well-being, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle and current relationship. If you're experiencing a problem in any of these areas, it can affect your sexual desire.
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
- Sexual problems. If you experience pain during sex or an inability to orgasm, it can hamper your desire for sex.
- Medical diseases. Numerous nonsexual diseases can also affect desire for sex, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and neurological diseases.
- Medications. Many prescription medications — including some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications — are notorious libido killers.
- Lifestyle habits. A glass of wine may make you feel amorous, but too much alcohol can spoil your sex drive; the same is true of street drugs. And smoking decreases blood flow, which may dampen arousal.
- Surgery. Any surgery related to your breasts or your genital tract can affect your body image, sexual function and desire for sex.
- Fatigue. Exhaustion from caring for young children or aging parents can contribute to low sex drive. Fatigue from illness or surgery also can play a role in a low sex drive.
Changes in your hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. This can occur during:
Menopause. Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can cause decreased interest in sex and dryer vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex.
At the same time, women may also experience a decrease in testosterone — a hormone that boosts sex drive in men and women alike —which may lead to decreased libido. Although many women continue to have satisfying sex during menopause and beyond, some women experience a lagging libido during this hormonal change.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby and during breast-feeding can put a damper on sex drive. Of course, hormones aren't the only factor affecting intimacy during these times. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby can all contribute to changes in your sexual desire.
Your problems don't have to be physical or biological to be real. There are many psychological causes of low sex drive, including:
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
- Poor body image
- Low self-esteem
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Previous negative sexual experiences
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. So problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low sex drive. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues, such as:
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- Lack of connection with your partner
- Unresolved conflicts or fights
- Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
- Infidelity or breach of trust
- Frequently asked questions. Women's health FAQ072. Your sexual health. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Your-Sexual-Health. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Shifren JL. Sexual dysfunction in women: Epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Hoffman BL, et al. Williams Gynecology. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookId=399. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- McAninch JW, et al., eds. Smith & Tanagho's General Urology. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://accesssurgery.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookID=508. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Shifren JL. Sexual dysfunction in women: Management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Buster JE. Managing female sexual dysfunction. Fertility and Sterility, 2013; 100:905.
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