Scientific studies have consistently shown that about one third of US women report low sexual desire, and that this low desire is troubling to about one in three of those women. Lack of desire has been reported in studies at a higher rate among women ages 45 to 64. Considering the plethora of menopause symptoms (night sweats, sleep disruption, fatigues, irritability, etc.), it’s no wonder your libido is most likely going to suffer! Sex simply isn’t on your mind as much as it used to be, leaving you out of touch with your sensual self. But sex improves longevity, quality of life, and overall health, so it’s important to recognize when there is an issue.
Although this matter is rather complex and it involves a multitude of physiological, emotional, and lifestyle factors, there are a few common causes for low libido, which can be easily overlooked.
Common Causes for Low Libido during Menopause
As estrogen levels fall when women approach and enter menopause, the resulting dryness and thinning of vaginal tissues can cause penetration and intercourse to be uncomfortable or painful for many. Over time, and without treatment, the inflammation that may result from insufficient vaginal lubrication can lead to tearing and bleeding of vaginal tissues during sex.
Menopause as well as birth control pills can lower testosterone, the hormone that boosts libido in women as well as men. Menopausal women may notice that they are not as easily aroused, and may be less sensitive to touching and stroking — which can also result in decreased interest in sex.
Thyroid health is important for a healthy libido as well. Studies show that even slightly reduced thyroid levels can dramatically decrease libido in women as well as causing fatigue, weight gain and depression. In order to detect such dysfunctions, people need to find a doctor that uses complete testing for thyroid levels which includes TSH, free T3, free T4 and reverse T3.
Bladder control problems
Urinary incontinence in menopausal women is often caused by hormonal imbalance, specifically decreased levels of estrogen. Estrogen helps to keep muscles strong, including the muscles that enable control of the bladder and contributes to the health of the urinary tract lining. When estrogen levels begin to drop the muscles weaken and the bladder is more difficult to control.
Of all types of urinary incontinence, coital incontinence, the leakage of urine during sexual intercourse, may have the most impact on sexual health. This commonly occurs in women with any type of incontinence, with an overall prevalence from 11 to 60 % in middle-aged women.
Menopause can cause hot flashes and night sweats, and as a result, many women experience trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep can elevate cortisol levels, which also leads to low libido. Insufficient sleep can also lead to low energy, sleepiness, tension and fatigue, which can further decrease the interest in sex.
Depression and anxiety
Depression can change the body’s biochemistry, reducing libido. For example, signs of low dopamine include apathy, low energy and motivation, as well as low libido, and inability to experience pleasure.
Dopamine deficiency can manifest as a lethargic and apathetic form of depression unlike serotonin-based depression, which is usually linked to anxiety.
The body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic stress, in particular, can interfere with your body’s hormone levels and result in a low libido.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants can induce sexual dysfunction in a high number of patients and is a main cause of treatment discontinuation. Oral contraceptives lower levels of sex hormones and can lead to low libido. Antihistamines like Benadryl, painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin, etc, anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and beta-blockers are also linked to a loss of libido.
There are solutions!
Not all menopausal women experience a loss of libido, but instead they report an increase in sex drive! This may be due to decreased anxiety associated with a fear of pregnancy. In addition, many post-menopausal women often have fewer child-rearing responsibilities, allowing them to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners. Finally, other women just rediscover themselves at a new chapter of their lives and learn how to fully enjoy it, which reflects into their sexual life as well.
Still, when menopause hits, it causes a lot of many physical and emotional changes in the body, which are not always easy to manage for all.
The use of bioidentical hormones, hormones that are exact copies of hormones naturally produced by the body, can be very effective at returning the vigor and sex drive. Also, Oxytocin can be prescribed by a physician and can be safely used before intercourse to boost libido. Supplementation of testosterone as well as addressing thyroid and adrenal dysfunctions can dramatically increase libido, sense of well-being, energy and quality-of-life.