- Some causes of a low sex drive in women include taking medicines like birth control or SSRIs.
- Stress and not sleeping enough could also cause lowered libido.
- Medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease may also cause a lower sex drive.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
There’s no “normal” amount of sex drive. The right amount is whatever feels right for you. Yet, many women feel like their sex drive is too low.
There are many reasons your sex drive can take a dip, including stress, medications, your period, or relationship issues. Here are 10 of the most common reasons you may have a hard time feeling sexual.
1. Shifts in hormones during your menstrual cycle
Your levels of sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone change throughout your menstrual cycle, which can affect your sex drive, says Kate Thomas, PhD, the director of clinical services at The Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic.
“We know that progesterone can have a negative impact on sexuality; the role of estrogen is less understood,” Thomas says.
You may notice that your sex drive is higher around the middle of your cycle, while you’re ovulating, but it may dip lower at other times, like during your period. This is partly because progesterone levels rise once you’re done ovulating, as your body gets ready to menstruate.
However, “increases and decreases in sexual drive appear to be quite individual,” Thomas says.
2. Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, vaginal rings, and hormonal IUDs are linked with lower sex drive in women, Thomas says.
This is because hormonal birth control lowers your testosterone levels, which leads to a lower sex drive. Having less testosterone in your body can also make your vulva and clitoris feel less sensitive, which may make sex less appealing.
A 2013 review found that 15% of women taking birth control pills reported that their sex drive had decreased since starting the pill.
If you have sexual issues while using birth control, talk to your gynecologist about non-hormonal options like the copper IUD.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication that can lower your sex drive. Some common SSRIs are sertraline (Zoloft) and escitalopram (Lexapro).
SSRIs work by raising serotonin levels in the brain, which can help boost your mood. But higher serotonin levels can also make you feel less interested in sex, Thomas says.
“Many women report lowered sexual drive when on SSRIs, but the most commonly reported side effect is difficulty reaching orgasm,” says Thomas. This is important because if you can’t orgasm, you may feel less interested in having sex.
If you’re having these symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about changing your dose or trying a different medication.
can reduce your sex drive, particularly if your blood sugar levels aren’t stable. When your diabetes isn’t well controlled, you’re more likely to have nerve damage and issues with blood circulation, which could affect sex drive.
“Diabetes affects the small blood vessels and nerves that feed and innervate the genital region,” Thomas says. “Thus, people who have the disease can experience a lack of sensation and feeling.”
What the research says: A 2012 study found that women who took insulin for diabetes were twice as likely to report low overall sexual satisfaction than women without diabetes.
Working with your doctor to get your diabetes under control may help bring back your sex drive and make it easier for you to feel aroused.
5. Not sleeping enough
Missing out on sleep can throw off your nervous system, which controls most of your bodily functions, including your sex drive. “Anything that disrupts the fine-tuning of this system, like lack of sleep, will negatively impact sexuality,” Thomas says.
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To deal with the stress from lack of sleep, your body produces more of a stress hormone called cortisol, while decreasing your levels of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, Thomas says. When these hormones take a dip, your sexual desire will too.
Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel irritable and fatigued, Thomas says, which can make it harder to get in the mood. Sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours a night can help rebalance your hormones, mood, and sex drive.
“Depression is a prime reason for not wanting to be sexual or not being able to focus when one is sexually engaged,” Thomas says.
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This is because depression can cause serious symptoms like intense sadness and affect how your body functions. “These emotions can impact sleep, lead to fatigue, lack of motivation and decreased self-esteem, all things that lead away from a hearty sexual appetite,” Thomas says.
Getting treatment for depression using therapy or medication may help your energy and sex drive return.
When you’re feeling stressed out, your sex drive can take a hit. “Women who find themselves stressed from job demands, children, and family responsibilities have little energy left over to focus on sex,” Thomas says.
Over time, stress can also raise your levels of cortisol and lower testosterone and estrogen, making it harder for you to get aroused.
8. Low self-esteem
If you feel bad about yourself, it can be hard to get in the mood for sex. This is especially true if you don’t like the way your body looks – you may be less likely to ask for sex or to feel comfortable getting intimate.
Your interest in being sexual often changes based on how you see yourself, Thomas says, including how attractive you feel, your body image, and your overall self-esteem, Thomas says.
Seeing a therapist or practicing gratitude may be a good first step to work on raising your self-esteem.
9. Heart disease
Heart disease decreases the blood flow throughout your body, including to your vagina and vulva. “Since blood flow to the genitals is what defines arousal, decreases most definitely have some impact,” Thomas says.
“Cardiovascular symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain also play a role,” by making sex more exhausting and difficult, Thomas says. Working with your doctor to regulate
symptoms may be a good option to give your sex drive a boost.
10. Relationship problems
“One of the most common things we hear from women is how much issues in their relationship relate to their decreased interest in sex,” Thomas says.
Conflicts, mistrust, and stress can push you and your partner further apart, making it harder to feel intimate. “In order to feel sexually drawn to our partners we must like them first,” Thomas says.
Going to couples therapy may be a good option if you’re facing issues in your relationship. “Often these aspects of the relationship need to be addressed in order to even begin healing sexually,” Thomas says.
There are many reasons your sex drive may be low, and talking to your gynecologist, therapist, or primary care doctor may be the best way to figure out what’s affecting your sex drive and how to fix it.
“It is essential for a woman with complaints of low desire to be thoroughly evaluated to determine what factors are impeding her,” Thomas says.
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