As our culture has become more open about sexuality, something surprising has come out: many women feel their sex drive is too low. Lack of libido — absent sex drive —affects almost a third of women.
Surveys have shown that most people think that others are getting more sex than they are. This shows how unrealistic our culture has become about sexuality. While characters in movies or TV may always seem to be hopping into bed, real life is much less exciting.
A usual sexual frequency for married couples is 1 to 2 times a week, maybe less when there are small children or demanding work schedules or both. It is normal not to feel interest in sex at some times.
Lack of sexual appetite is less common in men than women, and a man’s libido is much less likely to be affected by fatigue or stress. This can result in partners having different levels of desire. Sometimes a woman simply wants sex less often than her mate. There may also be a lack of relaxed and private time together. Women sometimes find it hard to relax to enjoy sex when they are concerned about being overheard.
Sexual expression is an important part of relationships and it may require changing the routine so as to permit time alone for the partners when they are rested. Sometimes there are conflicts in the relationship which need to be addressed for the sexual aspect to improve. Although a few couples find angry arguments exciting, for most people they are a turn-off.
It is quite common for women to experience lack of desire apart from the above circumstances. Sometimes this is a long term problem. There are many women for whom sex has never been of major importance — they may not miss sex, but feel pressure from their partner. For those who have never had a strong sex drive, hormones are unlikely to be the cause.
WHEN SEX DOES NOT SEEM RIGHT
ANTIDEPRESSANTS AND DESIRE
Some anti-hypertensives can affect sexual performance also.
MEDICAL TREATMENT OF LOW SEX DRIVE
When there has been a relatively sudden loss of interest, hormones may be involved. Some women do not mind the change in interest but others miss the pleasure and satisfaction which sex once held for them. Sometimes this happens after hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries; some think that this can be due to loss of the testosterone produced by the ovaries. Some women in this situation find that their sex drive is restored when they are given testosterone.
TREATMENT OF LOW SEX DRIVE WITH TESTOSTERONE: PROS AND CONS
If you are thinking of trying testosterone, you should be aware of possible side effects. A look at other articles on this website will show the problems that testosterone can produce in women. (acne, hirsutism, alopecia, PCOS). If you start having acne, increased hair growth, or loss of scalp hair, you should consider if any benefit from testosterone is worth these effects.
I mentioned trying testosterone for up to 3 months because any benefit will be apparent in that interval. If it does not help, there is no point to continuing.
At the present time, there are no really ideal testosterone preparations available for women. A combination of methyltestosterone and esterified estrogens (Estratest® and Estratest HS® (available in the U.S. but not in Canada) has been widely used for loss of libido associated with removal of the ovaries, or with natural menopause. These medications do work for some (but by no means all) women with reduced sex drive.
There are other forms of testosterone that can be used by women but correct dosing is important so they should be prescribed by a physician experienced in this form of treatment.
As I have mentioned, androgenic side effects are a concern with testosterone. I have seen several women with scalp hair loss, increased facial or body hair, or oily skin and acne resulting from taking testosterone. Those women who already are troubled by these problems need to be aware that taking testosterone may make them worse. The androgenic effects of Estratest and Estratest HS are usually mild in my experience — especially with the HS (half-strength) form — and many women do not have any of these effects.
The situation may be worse with non-standardized preparations compounded by pharmacies that specialize in hormonal preparations. I have seen two women who developed testosterone levels as high as those in men after applying testosterone cream or gel. I advise against using any of these non-standard preparations. A skin patch is being developed which gives consistent levels of testosterone comparable to those present in pre-menopausal women. I have done research on the patch with grant support from the sponsor; it seems promising and research on it is continuing.
ESTROGEN AND SEXUALITY
WHAT ABOUT THE BLUE PILL?
IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED LOSS OF SEXUAL DESIRE
Help for Hormone Problems
Question of the Month
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