I was staring at a screen watching music videos the other day when I was getting my nails done and it struck me how over-sexualized our society is. It’s not something new to me but it does make me wonder why as recent studies report that we are having less sex than ever before. We are having much less sex than we were just 10 years ago and heterosexual women are to blame. Heterosexual women are reported to have the lowest libido of all the groups studied and a huge 40% of women (some studies suggest more) are unable to reach orgasm consistently.
Although this is somewhat of an awkward topic for me to discuss it’s something I felt the need to write about because a healthy libido is not only important for healthy relationships it is also an indicator of overall health. More than this, despite the fact that low libido is very common among women and has somewhat become normalized, low libido is a huge pain point for many women, especially for women in caring loving relationships.
Women’s sex drive is a highly orchestrated process with over 10 different hormones and neurotransmitters at play. (As opposed to men which really only need one or two) An imbalance in any of these areas can lead to problems with libido. The reasons for low libido in women are rarely communicated at the doctor’s office and can leave women feeling helpless and confused.
Here are the top 6 causes of low libido :
1. Hormonal birth control: this is by far the number one reason for low libido in women. Hormonal birth control depletes testosterone levels and increases the amount of sex hormone binding globulin which further binds to any other testosterone in the body reducing sex drive down to zero. Birth control also shuts off natural progesterone production which is needed for sex drive and to combat stress and anxiety. Increased anxiety and depression are common on birth control and leads to a low sex drive, it also depletes nutrients which further worsens the problem.
2. Antidepressant Drugs: antidepressant drugs provide a steady release of serotonin (feel good happiness neurotransmitter) in the body. While this is good, a steady stream of serotonin does not allow for the natural surge of serotonin needed in the body for sexual arousal and reaching orgasm. Antidepressants can also elevate prolactin hormone levels in the body which can interfere with libido.
3. Hormonal imbalances: Nearly all female hormone imbalances can disrupt healthy libido. The main imbalances to consider for young women (before menopause) is estrogen dominance and or low progesterone, low testosterone, and thyroid dysfunction.
4. Low self-esteem and body image: it comes as no surprise that women who are insecure about their bodies or themselves will find it difficult to have a healthy libido. The brain and beliefs about oneself can override sexual desire (self-sabotage).
5. Stress: cortisol (stress hormone) is needed for all other hormone production and will prioritize keeping you alive and out of danger over sexual hormone production. Lack of sleep, inflammation, overworking and fatigue is a form of stress that can also contribute to low sex drive.
6. Nutrient deficiencies: nutrients are the building blocks for healthy hormones. A deficiency in nutrients can lead to inadequate hormone production and consequent lack of sex drive. The key nutrients to look out for healthy hormones is a good balance of carbs, plant-based proteins and fats, magnesium, zinc, b complex vitamins especially vitamin b6 and vitamin e and vitamin d. As always food sources are the best choice for replenishing nutrients and should be chosen over supplements.
There are times when it is normal and natural to experience low libido such as pregnancy and breastfeeding for some women, and also menopause (which is a complicated topic for another post). There are some deep psychological implications such as sexual abuse and traumatic experiences around sex that can lead to low libido. These things are best dealt with from a psychological perspective.
Personally, I have had to deal with 5 of all of the above-mentioned points that caused me to have low libido for a period of time. I have been on hormonal birth control, antidepressants, have had severe nutritional deficiencies and suffered from major anxiety. All of these points impacted my sex drive at times but none of them impacted me anywhere near as much as birth control. For me, birth control made it physiologically impossible to have a sex drive. As soon as I came off birth control, my libido was more or less back to normal within a 24 hour period. I was personally on progestin-only contraception which leaves the system in 24 hours, for many women on combination pills it can take longer for normal libido to return (months). Unfortunately, birth control is also a leading cause of hormonal imbalance so there may be low libido as a result of new hormonal imbalances once off birth control.
If your a young woman that is struggling with low libido, there are things you can do to address the reasons why. Work on coming off birth control in a healthy and safe way (there are many resources that can help you do that) and use other more natural and safer forms of birth control if you choose. Consider talking to your health care provider about your antidepressants if that is an option for you, eat enough healthy nutritious real unprocessed foods to help with hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies. Consider testing your hormones with lab tests so you are more aware of what hormone imbalances you have. Target your stress and anxiety with appropriate lifestyle changes like gentle exercise, adequate sleep and freeing up busy schedules. Don’t avoid getting to the cause of the reasons for lack of self-esteem and anxiety, no matter how painful it may be, it is the only way out of depression and anxiety. Symptom relief will not help in the long term.
I wanted to give a special thank you and mention to Kaely and Robyn from Her Hormones Academy for providing me with a lot of valuable information to help write this post. Her Hormones academy is an online comprehensive hormone course that helps you identify the root cause of your particular hormone imbalance. If your interested check out the course here: https://herhormonesacademy.thinkific.com/ it has been of immense value to me.