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8 Medical Reasons for Your Low Sex Drive

Ladies, listen up: Is your libido MIA? One of these sex drive stealers may be to blame.


What happened to your sex drive?

You may think lack of libido is the problem, but it may go deeper than that: Relationship issues are the most common reason for low desire, says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University. “If you feel unappreciated and taken for granted, or if there is a lack of intimacy or loving feeling in your relationship, you’re not very likely to desire sex,” she explains. “I tell my patients that if they hate their partner, there is no amount of any drug that will make them desire to have sex with them.” Watch for these signs of a toxic relationship. But if all is well and good in your relationship, one of these medical causes for low sex drive could be to blame.


You’re sacrificing sleep

Cutting into your eight hours affects more just than how much coffee you’re going to need in the morning. In a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that women who slept more on a given night were more sexually aroused the next day. In fact, each additional hour of sleep increased the likelihood of next-day nookie by 14 percent. Try one of these secrets to sleep better naturally.


You’re consuming too many chemicals

In a study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers found that women who had the highest levels of a chemical called phthalates in their urine were two and a half times more likely to report low sexual desire. Previous research has found that phthalates affect the endocrine system in men, but this study revealed that the chemical also impacts hormones in women, specifically estrogen and testosterone, which power your libido. The researchers focused mainly on a type of phthalates found in food—namely processed food and pesticides—but the chemicals are also found in a ton of everyday products (they make plastic bendy, so everything from yoga mats to shower curtains). And even though the study only found an association between phthalate levels and low libido, it’s a good idea to lower your exposure. Eat fewer processed foods and try these tips to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals.


You’re depressed

Women with depression report more inhibited arousal, more inhibited orgasm, more pain during sex, and less sexual satisfaction and pleasure than their non-suffering counterparts, according to a study from the University of Texas at Austin. What’s more, many of the meds prescribed for depression and anxiety can decrease desire, says Helana Pietragallo, MD, an ob-gyn at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Specifically, tricyclic antidepressants were more likely to influence female’s romantic feelings, finds a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders, whereas selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—the other commonly prescribed type of antidepressant—were more likely to affect guys.

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You’re going through menopause

The pros: You’ll never have to buy a tampon again. The cons: You suddenly have a new cocktail of hormones, complete with a handful of potential bummer side effects, including a change in sex drive, says Colin MacNeill, MD, an ob-gyn at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. More than half of postmenopausal women report low sexual desire, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. “As a woman ages, her hormones estrogen and testosterone decrease and these hormones are linked to desire,” says Dr. Hutcherson. Plus, many women experience vaginal dryness with menopause, which can lead to more painful intercourse, making you less in the mood, Dr. MacNeill adds. Are you aware of theses sneaky perimenopause symptoms?


You strive for perfection

Women who feel their partner expects perfectionism from them are more likely to suffer sexual dysfunction, according to a new British study. Why? Because the pressure from their partner decreases their sexual esteem and increases sexual anxiety—talk about a mood killer!


You’re on deadline (again)

“To experience desire, women need to be relaxed and able to focus on pleasure,” Dr. Hutcherson explains. “We take care of everyone else before ourselves, so women are easily distracted and concerned by life stressors, making it difficult to think about sex.” And stressful times may take more of a toll on you than him: Research from the Kinsey Institute found women were less likely to be able to get in the mood when anxious or stressed compared to men. The good news? If this is the culprit, you’ll probably see a jump in your sex drive once the stress passes and you catch up on sleep, Dr. MacNeill adds. Pay attention to these signs stress is making you sick.


You started a new medication

“Medications can alter various hormone levels which, in turn, decrease libido,” says Dr. Pietragallo. Many meds used to treat chronic medical problems, as well as birth control pills and antidepressants, can all decrease your desire and even, in the case of the latter, decrease the chance a woman will experience an orgasm. Yikes! If you notice a change in sex drive as a result of starting a new medication, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up to your doctor.


You’ve got a bun in the oven

Some preggos report a spike in sex drive while they’re expecting; while for other pregnant women, getting intimate is the last thing on their minds. In many cases, sex drive can ebb and flow all nine months long, depending too on factors like how queasy you feel or how comfortable you are with your ginormous belly. But if you’re in the anti-sex camp, rest assured it’s very normal. “Sexual desire can decrease during pregnancy, postpartum, and while breastfeeding due to hormonal changes, like increased prolactin,” says Dr. Hutcherson. Plus, it’s pretty much a guarantee that post-baby, your body is plagued by fatigue, which zaps you of the energy to get aroused.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest