Low libido during menopause – why is this happening?
Author: Chris Jones
The reasons for low libido during menopause can be multiple and probably interrelated, both physical and psychological. It’s often one or more issues combined that causes you to feel this way. Keep in mind: don’t blame yourself or allow others to blame you. As you’ll see, low libido in women of any age is common and complicated. However, during menopause, hormonal changes can often be the main contributor towards loss of libido. Chris Jones, a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner, specialising in women’s health explains more.
How common is this – am I the only one?
There are differing surveys on what percentage of postmenopausal women / women “in menopause” feel that decreased sexual interest is a problem for them. One survey of women at a menopause clinic showed 50% of those questioned complained of low libido. Other studies have shown that low sexual desire can happen at all stages of a woman’s life, but this concern is relatively more common in women’s later years.
However the good news is that according to the North American Menopause Society, problems with low libido for women in mid-life decrease significantly after age 64:
Under age 45…………9% of women
Middle years 45-65 ..12% of women
Age 65 or older………7% of women
7 possible reasons for decreased sexual desire in women in and after mid-life:
1. Vaginal / vulvar pain conditions
- During menopause oestrogen levels decrease. Oestrogen helps keep the vagina lubricated and healthy therefore during menopause the vagina can become dry and cause ‘vaginal atrophy’
- Yeast infection. Not all yeast itches – there are some women who only note burning during intercourse, or only complain of dryness
- Vulvodynia – localised nerve pain with no obvious cause or visible skin changes
- Lichen Sclerosis – a not uncommon autoimmune chronic skin condition that needs to be diagnosed by a GYN health care provider, plus long-term steroid ointment. Te ointment resolves the symptoms of pain and decreases the small associated risk of future vulvar skin cancer
2. Emotional challenges
- Poor body image
- Other mental health conditions
3. Side-effects of medication
An example would be taking antidepressants from the SSRI family. Check if decreased libido is listed as a side effect of any medications you are taking.
4. Health problems
- Heart, lung or other health conditions
- Chronic pain conditions including but not limited to:
– Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis
– Chronic back pain
5. Health issues of partner
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heart, stroke, lung or other health problems
6. Pressures of life during mid-life
- Life and financial worries
- Family and relationship issues
- Simple exhaustion due to work outside or inside the home
7. Decreasing testosterone levels
Testosterone is the main hormone for causing sexual desire. During menopause, the already low levels of testerone decrease a bit more which may result in loss of libido.
The big picture
That was a long and complex list! How many of us can honestly say, “none of the above applies to me?” No wonder that it’s not uncommon for women to report problems with problematic decreased sexual desire.
This brings up a good point. A woman’s low libido is not a problem unless it’s a problem for the woman. Of course, if her lack of interest is causing relationship problems with her partner, then it’s usually also a problem for the woman.
It’s also important to realise that some women are content and at peace with their decreased libido. Interestingly: In one study, most women with HSDD – hypoactive sexual desire, were noted to be in long relationships with high levels of overall relationship satisfaction.
What to do next
1. Try to identify the associated cause or causes. The list above may help you to focus on one or more issues that are affecting your sexual life.
2. Make medical, relationship, health, and life changes wherever possible to improve or resolve the issues you have identified. Fortunately, sometimes just having identified and acknowledged the reason(s) for lack of sexual desire, is helpful for some in dealing with the situation.
3. If a thorough review of, and effort to treat and improve the issues that you’ve identified does not give you relief from your concerns, don’t hesitate to see a professional.
– Your Primary Care Provider
– Your Gynecology Provider
– A specialist in sexual dysfunction – www.apa.org/topics/sex/treatment
Read more articles by Chris Jones
About the Author
Chris Jones is a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner, specialising in women’s health issues and Hormone Replacement Therapy. She can provide practical, easy to understand information to help you decide if and how Hormone Replacement might be right for you. You can contact Chris via her website at: YourGynNP.com
Correlates of sexual functioning in Italian menopausal women.
http://www.faboverfifty.com/health/my-libido-gone-should-i-care/ quotes Dr. Holly Thacker, Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at The Cleveland Clinic
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22076307 Characteristics of premenopausal and postmenopausal women with acquired, generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder: the Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder Registry for women.