Loss of female libido.

It’s not unusual for a woman to lose interest in sex at some stage, or experience difficulty climaxing to orgasm. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong, as a range of physical and psychological factors can play a part in your feelings towards sexual intercourse.

Physical causes:

  • vaginal dryness
  • painful sex
  • arousal difficulties
  • depression
  • some medication (including antidepressants)
  • underlying health problems
  • menopause or PMS
  • contraception
  • alcohol or drugs
  • pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding

Psychological causes:

  • stress
  • anxiety or depression
  • bereavement
  • retirement
  • divorce
  • personal illness
  • illness of a partner
  • a change in partner’s sexual function
  • poor body image
  • fatigue/exhaustion
  • relationship difficulties
  • history of unwanted sexual contact

Talk about it

If you have lost interest in sex, you may find it helps to talk to someone, such as a friend or partner, about how you are feeling. Not talking about your concerns can sometimes make sexual issues more difficult in relationships.

If you feel uneasy talking about sex, in a relationship try asking your partner how they feel about your sex life first. Remember to reassure your partner that you still love them and enjoy close contact with them.

You should also talk about how you like to be touched and caressed. Especially if you can reach orgasm by masturbating, but not from foreplay or sexual intercourse with your partner.

Discussing your feelings with someone is important.

Advice for loss of libido

There’s more to sex than having intercourse. If your interest in having sex has decreased, you may want to try some more sensual methods of becoming aroused. These include:

  • exploring and caressing each other’s bodies
  • taking a bath or shower together
  • having a massage
  • kissing each other slowly and in sensual places (such as the thigh)
  • undressing each other

Some medicines can cause a loss of libido. If you are concerned that your medicine is causing this, ask your doctor for a medicine review.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about the loss of your libido, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

While Addyi remains controversial, it’s clear that many people’s libidos aren’t as high as they’d like. A lowered libido could be a sign of a diagnosable condition, or it could be due to a lifestyle factor. Sex therapist Holly Richmond points out that often, changes in sex drive are nothing to stress about (in fact, stress may only exacerbate the problem). Read on for nine possible reasons your drive is dipping.

1. You’re under a lot of stress.

Given the headlines about sexual assault and harassment flooding our social media accounts, a correlating dip in sex drive is totally understandable. If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, Richmond suggests seeking therapy to talk it out and learn stress management techniques. And before you jump to self-diagnosing any medical conditions, if you’re experiencing an unusually low libido, remember our national state of affairs — and cut yourself slack for feeling deeply affected by them. That includes in the bedroom.

2. You’re dealing with depression.

Everyone has down days, especially in times as stressful as this. But depression is even more serious: “Depression affects every aspect of your life, physically, mentally, and can cause libido issues,” says Jessica Shepherd, an OB/GYN at the University of Illinois at Chicago. For more information on depression, see the National Institute of Mental Health’s . Depression is brutal and yet treatable. Don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you’ve been feeling bluer than normal for longer than usual.

3. You’re on antidepressants.

While depression can affect libido, so can SSRI medications used to treat it, including Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac. Yes, it’s a cruel world when the treatment shares a side effect with the condition. However, Shepherd stresses that fear of sexual side effects isn’t a reason not to seek treatment for depression. If you’re on antidepressants that you feel are affecting your sex drive, abruptly stopping your medication can be dangerous. Instead, speak with your psychiatrist about changing treatment. Non-SSRI antidepressants such as Wellbutrin, for example, may be a good option for you (and your sex life).

4. You take hormonal birth control.

SSRIs are not the only medication that can lower libido. Oral contraceptives that have estrogen and progestin can affect libido, Shepherd says. The birth control pill decreases testosterone in the body, a hormone connected to sex drive; less testosterone can mean a lower libido. Some women report increased sex drive when on birth control, which may be for psychological reasons: It can be a huge turn-on when pregnancy becomes less of a concern. If you suspect that your birth control is killing your sex drive, though, speak to your OB/GYN about other contraception options. From low-hormone pills to IUDs, there are too many contraceptive methods out there not to look for the best one for you.

Midsection Of Naked Woman In BathtubGetty Images5. You have young kids in the house.

Pretty much any parent can speak to the libido-killing effect of having young children around at all times. Richmond says this comes down to lifestyle changes: Once you become a parent, you’re likely going to have less time for sex and be more focused on your kids. “When you have kids in the house especially under the age of five, you’re just going to have sex differently for a little while,” Richmond says. If you’re a happy parent but worried about the changes in your sex drive, Richmond says not to stress. Your libido should bounce back when you get a little more time, relaxation, and sleep — which can lead to a sex life even better than before you became a parent.

6. You’re suffering from a vaginal conditon.

Sometimes libido is affected by lifestyle. Other times, however, there’s a medical reason yours is low. Vaginismus, for example, is a painful condition that causes vaginal spasms that make penetration difficult. “Sex becomes painful, so, therefore, vaginismus affects you mentally, and your libido is affected,” Shepherd says. Scientists remain unsure of the casuses of the condition, but it has been linked to past sexual trauma. One thing is certain: if you have a vagina, it’s understandably very difficult to become excited about penetrative sex if it’s painful and the thought of anything near your genitals causes you to cringe. While still mysterious in terms of causes, vaginism is treatable through vaginal dilators, relaxation techniques, and therapy.

Another painful condition for vagina owners is vulvodynia, which is characterized by pain on the vulva, says Shepherd. The diagnosis is made after more obvious causes, such as a yeast infection or an STI like herpes, are ruled out. Another condition of mysterious origin (perhaps we should invest more money into women’s sexual health research?), vulvodynia is usually treated on an individual basis: Treatment can include everything from tricyclic antidepressants to acupuncture.

7. You just ovulated.

A lower libido may be temporary and simply due to changes in your period. People who menstruate often feel horniest around ovulation, which occurs in the middle of the cycle. Libido may drop directly after ovulation thanks to higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which some studies have shown correlates negatively with libido. Keeping a journal that tracks changes in your cycle can help you predict libido dips and not stress when they occur.

8. You’ve started menopause.

With the start of menopause comes the end of periods, which many people welcome, but the accompanying hormonal changes can cause a dip in libido, Shepherd says. Thankfully, modern medicine has lots of responses to nature. Talk to your doctor about the treatment options available to menopausal people looking to regain their sex drives.

9. Your relationship isn’t putting you in the mood.

Our intimate relationships are often where we notice changes in our sex drives. Sometimes, they’re also the reason for these changes. Richmond says that in newer relationships, we may stress over what our partners think of our bodies, which can affect libido and ability to orgasm. In long-term relationships, meanwhile, lulls in sex drive aren’t uncommon. There’s a lot of research stressing cisgender men’s desire for sexual diversity, but all of us stand to benefit from varied sexual experiences.

If you’re in a monogamous relationship, this doesn’t (necessarily) mean it’s time to start sleeping with other people. Instead, maybe it’s time to explore a new fantasy with your partner or introduce a new accessory into your relationship. Frequency of sex and levels of desire ebb and flow in all relationships, and “dry spells” are normal. (However, if you’re worried that your lack of sexual interest stems from any form of abuse by your partner, please reach out to talk to someone straight away: Safe, confidential resources are available to you.)

And remember: As long as the sex you’re having is safe and consensual, you get to define for yourself what a satisfying sex life looks like. One person’s definition of a “high sex drive” may not be someone else’s, and the “right” frequency of sex is the one that you — and your partner — choose.


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Low Sex Drive in Women: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

It’s common for premenopausal and postmenopausal women to experience changes in estrogen levels. This is due to a reduction of blood flow to the vagina.

If lowered estrogen levels are causing your symptoms of HSDD, estrogen therapy may be suggested. Your doctor will recommend applying a cream, suppository, or ring that releases estrogen in the vagina. This can increase blood flow without the unwanted side effects that come with taking an estrogen pill.

Another treatment option is the pill flibanserin (Addyi), which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This medication has been shown to boost sex drive in premenopausal women with low sexual desire.

However, the drug is not for everyone. Possible side effects include hypotension (low blood pressure), fainting, and dizziness.

The injectable medication bremelanotide (Vyleesi) has also been FDA-approved to treat low sex drive in premenopausal women. Possible side effects include severe nausea, reactions at the site of the injection, and headache.

Lifestyle changes could also relieve stress and help improve a woman’s libido. These include:

  • exercising regularly
  • setting aside time for intimacy
  • sexual experimentation (such as different positions, role-playing, or sex toys)
  • avoiding substances that affect sexual desire, like tobacco and alcohol
  • practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as mindfulness-based interventions

Don’t underestimate the effect a decreased sexual desire can have on your well-being. If you feel symptoms of HSDD have impacted your quality of life, talk to your doctor. There are treatment options available.

What’s REALLY Causing Your Low Sex Drive?

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It’s the end of a long day and your partner wants to have sex. You’re so not into it and cite sheer exhaustion as your libido-squashing culprit. But truth be told, many women aren’t always as primed for sex as they’d like to be. In fact, for up to one-third of adult women, low sexual desire is a chronic problem that interferes with their quality of life. Despite how common it is, this condition—known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)—is not well-known or understood.

According to a recent survey supported by HealthyWomen and Palatin Technologies, Inc. , nearly half of premenopausal women (ages 30-50) say they’ve experienced low sexual desire at some point in their lives, yet only 14 percent were aware that HSDD was a medical condition. HSDD is a form of sexual desire disorder that can be defined as a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. This under-reported and under-recognized sexual concern can take a real toll on a woman’s romantic relationships and self-esteem.

Low sexual desire is the most common form of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). FSD, the general medical term for disturbance in women’s sexual functioning, also includes female sexual arousal disorders, sexual pain disorders and female orgasmic disorder.

Symptoms of low sexual desire include:

  1. Lack of sexual thoughts
  2. Lack of sexual desire that cannot be attributed to any other physical or psychiatric condition, nor to any medications
  3. Distress due to lack of sexual thoughts or desire
  4. Strain on relationship with partner due to lack of sexual thoughts or desire

If you suffer from one or all of these symptoms, you are not alone. According to the HealthyWomen and Palatin Technologies survey, which included 906 premenopausal women, 46 percent experienced low sexual desire. Of these, about six in 10 were distressed about their dulled cravings for sex.

Why such distress? The survey found that 85 percent of women ages 30 to 50 think low sexual desire hurts the level of intimacy in their romantic relationships. And of these women, 66 percent think low sexual desire negatively impacts their communication with their partners.

But even though low sexual desire is common and significantly affects the lives of women who experience it, no drugs are currently approved for treatment in the United States—a fact that three-quarters of those who identified with the condition in the survey found frustrating. Among those who thought they might have HSDD, nearly all (92 percent) said they would be interested in an HSDD treatment. And as many as 58 percent of women polled indicated they would prefer a treatment that can be taken on-demand or when needed for sexual activity.

Many women are hesitant to talk about their sexuality with their partners or their health care professionals. There is no need to suffer in silence. Problems with sex are common and can often be worked out by educating yourself about the issue and researching professionals who are trained to help. It’s also important to be honest with and involve your partner. When the problem is life-disrupting, causes trouble in your relationship or involves physical pain, it’s time to talk with your health care professional.

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Besides giving you and your partner a feeling of intimacy, sex has a long list of benefits: It can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, increase endorphins and may even boost your immunity.

Does it count as exercise? Yes, yes it does.

Why a low libido?

With all the health benefits, why does low libido occur? It may come down to the basic drives that help us survive.

Most of us feel driven to eat out of hunger as food is necessary to live. Sex is different. It is critical for human survival but not for our individual survival. Many people aren’t driven to exercise, but they enjoy it once they do it. For many women, the same is true about sex.

In mid-life and beyond, it’s not uncommon or abnormal for women to notice they have a diminished or even absent sex drive. In some cases, this is not considered a problem. It depends on whether it concerns a woman herself. If she’s not bothered by it, or if she still enjoys sex at times, but just does not actively pursue it, it wouldn’t be considered an issue.

On the other hand, a true case of low libido, or what doctors call Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, can have a variety of physical causes. Ovary removal and the lack of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone can diminish with natural menopause or other conditions.

Dealing with lower testosterone

Unfortunately, there is no FDA-approved way of giving women testosterone, the “hormone of desire” to women.

On a milligram per milligram basis, women actually have more testosterone than estrogen. Both the adrenal glands and the ovaries make testosterone.

Testosterone levels can plummet in women as they age, with ovary removal, or because of other medical conditions. It’s not just sex drive that can drop with low testosterone. It’s also muscle strength and energy levels.

One way around this problem is to use off-label testosterone. However, this requires great care because too much testosterone can lead to acne, hair loss, facial hair growth, aggressiveness and permanent voice changes. It’s important to work with a hormone expert to ensure the dosing is correct.

Currently, compounding pharmacies are the mainstay for testosterone or using 1/10 of a commercially available male preparation.

Low sex drive in women


Most women benefit from a treatment approach aimed at the many causes behind this condition. Recommendations may include sex education, counseling, and sometimes medication and hormone therapy.

Sex education and counseling

Talking with a sex therapist or counselor skilled in addressing sexual concerns can help with low sex drive. Therapy often includes education about sexual response and techniques. Your therapist or counselor likely will provide recommendations for reading materials or couples’ exercises. Couples counseling that addresses relationship issues may also help increase feelings of intimacy and desire.


Your doctor will want to review the medications you’re already taking, to see if any of them tend to cause sexual side effects. For example, antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) may lower sex drive. Switching to bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) — a different type of antidepressant — usually improves sex drive and is sometimes prescribed for HSDD.

Along with counseling, your doctor may prescribe a medication called flibanserin (Addyi) to boost your libido. It’s the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment for premenopausal women with HSDD. You take the pill once a day, before you go to bed. Side effects include low blood pressure, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Drinking alcohol or taking fluconazole (Diflucan), a common medication to treat vaginal yeast infections, can make these side effects worse.

Hormone therapy

Dryness or shrinking of the vagina (vaginal atrophy) might make sex uncomfortable and, in turn, reduce your desire. Estrogen may help relieve vaginal atrophy symptoms. However, estrogen doesn’t improve sexual functioning related to hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

Estrogen is available in many forms, including pills, patches, sprays and gels. Smaller doses of estrogen are found in vaginal creams and a slow-releasing suppository or ring. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of each form.

Male hormones, such as testosterone, also play an important role in female sexual function, even though testosterone occurs in much lower amounts in women. It’s not approved by the FDA for sexual dysfunction in women, but sometimes it’s prescribed off-label to help lift a lagging libido. However, the use of testosterone in women is controversial. Taking it can cause acne, excess body hair, and mood or personality changes.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your desire for sex:

  • Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise and strength training can increase your stamina, improve your body image, lift your mood and boost your libido.
  • Stress less. Finding a better way to cope with work stress, financial stress and daily hassles can enhance your sex drive.
  • Communicate with your partner. Couples who learn to communicate in an open, honest way usually maintain a stronger emotional connection, which can lead to better sex. Communicating about sex also is important. Talking about your likes and dislikes can set the stage for greater sexual intimacy.
  • Set aside time for intimacy. Scheduling sex into your calendar may seem contrived and boring. But making intimacy a priority can help put your sex drive back on track.
  • Add a little spice to your sex life. Try a different sexual position, a different time of day or a different location for sex. Ask your partner to spend more time on foreplay. If you and your partner are open to experimentation, sex toys and fantasy can help rekindle your sexual desire.
  • Ditch bad habits. Smoking, illegal drugs and excess alcohol can all dampen your sex drive. Ditching these bad habits may help give your sex drive a boost and improve your overall health.

Alternative medicine

Talking about low sex drive with a doctor may be difficult for some women. So some women may turn to over-the-counter herbal supplements. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate such products, and in many cases, they haven’t been well-studied. Herbal supplements can have side effects or interact with other medications you may be taking. Always talk with a doctor before using them.

One herbal supplement blend is called Avlimil. This product has estrogen-like effects on the body. While estrogen may boost your sex drive, it may also fuel the growth of certain breast cancers.

Another choice is a botanical massage oil called Zestra. It’s applied to the clitoris, labia and vagina. One small study found that Zestra increased arousal and pleasure when compared with a placebo oil. The only reported side effect was mild burning in the genital area.

Coping and support

Low sex drive can be very difficult for you and your partner. It’s natural to feel frustrated or sad if you aren’t able to be as sexy and romantic as you want — or you used to be.

At the same time, low sex drive can make your partner feel rejected, which can lead to conflicts and strife. And this type of relationship turmoil can further reduce desire for sex.

It may help to remember that fluctuations in the sex drive are a normal part of every relationship and every stage of life. Try not to focus all of your attention on sex. Instead, spend some time nurturing yourself and your relationship.

Go for a long walk. Get a little extra sleep. Kiss your partner goodbye before you head out the door. Make a date night at your favorite restaurant. Feeling good about yourself and your partner can actually be the best foreplay.

Preparing for an appointment

Primary care doctors and gynecologists often ask about sex and intimacy as part of a routine medical visit. Take this opportunity to be candid about your sexual concerns.

If your doctor doesn’t broach the subject, bring it up. You may feel embarrassed to talk about sex with your doctor, but this topic is perfectly appropriate. In fact, your sexual satisfaction is a vital part of your overall health and well-being.

What you can do

To prepare for this discussion with your doctor:

  • Take note of any sexual problems you’re experiencing, including when and how often you usually experience them.
  • Make a list of your key medical information, including any conditions for which you’re being treated, and the names of all medications, vitamins or supplements you’re taking.
  • Consider questions to ask your doctor and write them down. Bring along notepaper and a pen to jot down information as your doctor addresses your questions.

Examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • What could be causing my problem?
  • Will my level of desire ever get back to what it once was?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my situation?
  • What treatments are available?
  • What books or other reading materials can you recommend?

Questions your doctor may ask

Your doctor will ask questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing and assess your hormonal status. Questions your doctor may ask include:

  • Do you have any sexual concerns?
  • Has your interest in sex changed?
  • Do you have trouble becoming aroused?
  • Do you experience vaginal dryness?
  • Are you able to have an orgasm?
  • Do you have any pain or discomfort during sex?
  • How much distress do you feel about your sexual concerns?
  • How long have you experienced this problem?
  • Are you still having menstrual periods?
  • Have you ever been treated for cancer?
  • Have you had any gynecological surgeries?

Low sex drive women

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