The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of libido, or sex drive, as being a key indicator in your health and quality of life. Sex drive in both men and women is linked to androgen hormones, specifically testosterone. Men have much higher testosterone than women which is why their sex drive tends to be more intense. Although there is not a numeric way to measure your sex drive, it often decreases as you age (even for men!). A change in hormone levels can decrease your sex drive, but other underlying conditions such as the following can also contribute:
- Medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines and even some blood pressure medications.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid and pituitary disorders, endocrine disorders, obesity, sleep apnea, heart conditions, etc.
- Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or a history of sexual abuse.
- Drinking, smoking, unhealthy diet, or lack of exercise.
The most common libido complaints in relationships stem from there being a disparity in sexual desire between partners. While the underlying conditions above can affect the libido of both men and women, there are specific differences between the genders.
Causes of Low Libido in Women
Hormonal changes for women that are a normal part of aging include reduced energy, hot flashes, sleep difficulty, weight gain and a change in sexual desire. The three hormones that affect sexual desire are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
In the years leading up to menopause, or perimenopause, estrogen levels bounce up and down while progesterone levels typically decrease. After a full year without a menstrual period, you are considered to have gone through menopause. At this point ovulation has ended and your estrogen and progesterone levels are typically at their lowest levels.
Testosterone levels in women peak during the mid-20s and then steadily decrease with age until the levels drop dramatically during menopause. In addition to a decrease in sex drive, low testosterone can cause sluggishness, weight gain, fatigue, loss of bone density and vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness also contributes to discomfort during sexual intercourse that leads to a reduced libido.
Many women report, “feeling broken down there,” which is why I developed a vaginal product called Juvanesse that melts without residue and was nicknamed “Animal Juice” by one of my patients. If you are able to use it every day for three weeks then your vagina, clitoris and labia will become as sensitive as when you were seventeen.
Causes of Low Libido in Men
Testosterone is the male hormone essential to strength and sex drive. Testosterone levels for men are highest during the late teen years and then steadily decline as men age. Additionally, testosterone levels tend to be higher in the morning and lower at night. Just like women, the decrease in testosterone contributes to a lower sex drive. Chronic pain and chronic illness also contribute to a lower libido in aging men.
Low libido in men is also tied to sexual dysfunction in the form of premature ejaculation and/or erectile dysfunction (ED). Low libido isn’t the same thing as erectile dysfunction (ED), although the two conditions can co-exist. ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.
Even though 40% of women report experiencing sexual dysfunction, the number one complaint from women is the decreased desire for sex. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to complain about ED than they are a low libido because they want to have sex but physically can’t. A long-term struggle with ED leads to increased anxiety and stress around the sex act which further decreases libido.
Male menopause is sometimes called andropause. In addition to low libido and ED, sexual symptoms of andropause include reduced orgasm intensity, small or shrinking testes, muscle loss, and loss of pubic and underarm hair. Other symptoms are similar to female menopause such as weight gain, difficulty sleeping, low energy, agitated or depressed mood, and difficulty concentrating.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Can Help Your Low Libido
A decrease in your sex drive isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when your low libido begins to affect your relationships and quality of life then it’s time to talk your doctor.
Bioidentical hormone therapy has been shown to increase the libido of men and women. Approximately 70% of low libido in both men and women can be attributed to hormonal imbalance. While men tend to experience sexual dysfunction as the result of hormonal imbalance, women are more likely to experience a lack of arousal and desire.
Wondering if you can benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy? Take our Hormone Balance Quiz to find out if you are a candidate for bioidentical hormone therapy.
The Riegel Center focuses on therapies for women and men who are thirty plus years of age with symptoms of age-related hormonal changes such as a low libido. The Riegel Center offers customized therapies in all 50 states that are developed and available only through Dr. Riegel.