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Where did my sex drive go?

Posted on Apr. 13, 2015 ( comments)
Bed and side table with lamp

For many women, a healthy sex drive is a sign that’s all right in the world and in our bodies. A satisfying sex life helps us feel more alive and connected to our partners.

That’s why it can be so upsetting if sex drive lags.

It’s natural for women to have ups and downs in their sexual desire. But when low libido is ongoing and distressing, it’s a real medical condition, called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). HSDD is a common problem, affecting women of all ages. The Society for Women’s Health Research estimates that one in 10 women are bothered by it.

Getting help for decreased sexual desire isn’t easy. Many women don’t think there’s anything that can help. And doctors aren’t always comfortable talking about it with patients. Often, women don’t mention it because they’re embarrassed, think it’s all in their heads, or assume it’s just part of getting older or being in a long-term relationship, says Terry Silvestrin, ARNP, a nurse practitioner at MultiCare Tacoma Women’s Specialists.

Complicated causes for low sex drive

Silvestrin explains that low libido in women has many possible causes. Hormones can play a role even before menopause sets in. Our interest in sex may wane because of work pressure, time constraints, relationship strife, tiredness, side effects of medications, an illness such as depression or diabetes, or how we feel about our bodies. Sometimes sex isn’t as big a priority as other demands on us as employees, moms, daughters, volunteers and spouses.

“Often we don’t know why a woman loses her desire for sex,” says Silvestrin. “The sexual arousal pattern of women is completely different than for men. It’s much more complicated.”

For some women, it helps to make their relationship and sex more of a priority, like putting regular date nights on the calendar. Seeing a therapist can help if a woman needs to work through relationship issues, deal with past sexual trauma or get coaching on how to talk about what pleases her in bed. A doctor visit can identify underlying medical issues like depression, diabetes or high blood pressure. In some cases the answer may mean switching to a different medication for conditions like depression, if low libido is a known side effect.

New medication under study

Health care providers and medical researchers across the nation are looking at new treatments to address HSDD, including a national clinical study of a “take as needed” medication. Participation in this study is available at MultiCare, overseen by Silvestrin and MultiCare gynecologist John Lenihan, MD, Medical Director of MultiCare’s Robotic and Minimally Invasive surgical program and frequent researcher.

Of course, medication can’t solve all sexual issues. “We can’t fix a relationship that’s broken or make your partner desirous to you,” Silvestrin says. “But so many women have tried so many things and after a while have given up. To have a medication that’s proven to help a woman’s sex drive would be great.”

If you are a pre-menopausal woman who has had a noticeable and distressing drop in your sex drive, find out more about this study by calling the MultiCare Institute for Research & Innovation at 253-403-7440.

Posted in: Research | Women's Health

About The Author

Kathleen Klein Kathleen Klein
For two decades, Kathleen has been writing about how our bodies work and how to keep them healthy. She is the mother of a college student and an ornery cat. Away from her writing desk, Kathleen loves to garden, read mysteries and hike with her husband.  More stories by this author
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