It is a central part of who we are as women and holds much power, pleasure, intimacy, and creativity for us. Yet, as we are moving into mid-life (starting with our first born child!), it often disappears – and we don’t always know why. This newsletter is dedicated to a discussion of libido, how to recapture it and to help it flourish through this period and into the years ahead. For the adventuresome and fearless… read on!
As women, we are wired differently than men for sensuality, sexuality, and libido.
Many studies have focused on these differences, and I will leave it you to look at the details. But, it is well established that women feel more sexual and have more libido when there is a sense of intimacy and a loving exchange between them and their partner. If these are not cultivated and maintained, libido and desire go out the window. I’m reminded how important this is by the fact that the biggest stimulus to a women’s libido is a new sex partner. Now I’m not suggesting everyone leave their partner, but I am saying that your libido can crash if you are not in love with your partner. I sometimes joke, but in fact am dead serious, that I can’t cure your relationship with hormones, yet the relationship has to be a priority if you want to recapture libido. Sometimes counseling is helpful or necessary to address these issues effectively.
Then we move into the psychological causes of low libido.
Well, how many of you have stressful days with kids, family, career, after school, meals, volunteering, and the list never ends!!!! This keeps going day after day, and if you add in insomnia to the mix, it becomes exhausting and debilitating!! Who hasthe energy to even sense libido, let alone actually having sex! Then, if your vagina is dry it hurts anyway- so why even go there?
Stress depletes our desire for sex.
In fact, as our adrenals are taxed by the daily stress, they can steal our sex hormones to convert them into the cortisol we need for survival. This adds further stress on an already declining sex hormone system, resulting in an even lower level of libido. And when we are stressed out, our patience wears thin, which doesn’t help an already strained relationship and any possibility of feelings of positive intimacy from either party. Stress also depletes our levels of DHEA and pregnenolone production, which play a roles in providing a sex hormone balance that supports good libido.
And, what if you do muster up the energy to venture into the bedroom with a little libido and get started with intimacy and foreplay only to find that, climax evades you more often than not – even after longer and longer periods of stimulation. Or, it’s just flat and hardly worth the effort. Or, it doesn’t occur at all. Not a pleasant life experience to be repeated often.
This can leave you feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself – a dear and intimate friend that may be gone forever, is what I hear a lot of women say.
Yet, I’m here to tell you there are many things that can be done to bring it back! Libido and sexual experience may be different than you experienced in the past, but it still can be downright good, passionate, exciting, tantalizing, and worth the effort. In fact, research has shown that our creativity is strongly related to our sexuality.
It is important to tune up the hormonal symphony of our body for this exquisite part of our being to find re-emergence. For us women, testosterone plays a role, but it never works well without adequate estrogen and progesterone. Also, DHEA is needed along with a balanced thyroid. The goal is to balance these delicate systems – not over treated and not under treated. And there are other systems we infrequently need to address.
Sometimes I order special compounded creams that can stimulate the vaginal and clitoral tissues and increase vital blood supply that tends to decline after menopause. This can, in some women, help to recapture the sense of stimulation they once experienced. In fact, right now I am doing a small study on some of these special preparations to determine their effectiveness in women who have their sex hormones already balanced. The preparations have generously been supplied free of charge by Dollar Drug for this study, and you can sign up with Lizzie if you want to participate.
When addressing libido, it is also important that you be well-nourished and get your vitamins and minerals so that your hormonal system can work correctly. Adequate sleep and regular moderate exercise (not excessive) also help. Maintaining a healthy weight, boosting your self- esteem, and loving yourself for who you are at your stage of life, are all contributing factors.
Focused attention to varying your love making and environment can also create an added sense of sensuality that can heighten libido and your sexual experience. Some couples enjoy reading erotic poems and stories, or watching various types of sexually explicit films to increase their experience. I highly recommend that you always work together to communicate clearly your feelings about this area and be in agreement regarding what you both find to be pleasurably arousing. Then, make it an activity that you consider doing together with the intention of expanding your shared sexual experience. And if this doesn’t fit for you, toss the idea out.
You can make changes that improve your libido and sexual experience in menopause by first addressing symptoms that drag down your quality of life. And, if you have a chronic disease, have had surgery leaving you with little libido (hysterectomy), or have medication side effects, don’t give up hope for change.
Focus on feeling better physically. Then look at the emotional, stress, and relationship issues that need to shift in your life. Start making small changes every week, and over time you will have created large positive changes.
It’s really unrealistic to think that we will be sexy in every moment and at every stage of our lives. Libido and sexual identity naturally ebb and flow, but if it’s completely gone, there are definite steps you can take to help regain this important part of your life or to boost it if it’s lagging in your life. After all, many women have admitted that they have had the best sex of their lives after menopause! Whatever it looks like for you, remember there are always opportunities for fulfillment, fun, and pleasure. Create a sex life that fits for you now, and love it! Create it to be the best you can make it at whatever stage of life you are.
It is thrilling for me to work with so many courageous and determined women who come back after we have worked together to achieve hormonal balance and say to me “Thank you so much! I’ve gotten my life back!”
Keep rocking ladies, and let the libido flow!!!!
Jane Kennedy, CFNP, MN, MPH