The pandemic lockdown, the uncertainty, and the change of life as we knew it has taken its toll on people physically and mentally. A sex drive in reverse has been a common complaint during the pandemic and a lot of this applies to men and women, however, I will focus mostly on women. Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder HSDD is quite common and affects 1/3 of adult women.
While I researched the products on the market for HSDD the side effects seemed worse than the lack of libido. Image making love while feeling any of these symptoms: dizzy, and nauseated or having flushing, headache, vomiting, cough, fatigue, tingling, and/or nasal congestion? Some raise blood pressure, others lower it. Some even cause darkening of the skin on the face, gums, and breast! I had to search for a better way when most of the things that worked in the past don’t seem to be working now. I reached out to colleagues to get their input as well. Here is our combined wisdom.
Optimize Hormone Levels
- Testosterone must be optimal. It is a big driver for libido. More is not necessarily better. Be sure that your doctor measures downstream metabolites. Men and women can turn testosterone into estrogen, or a very strong testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT can be high when testosterone is low and you can get masculinizing side effects such as acne, increased facial hair and male pattern hair loss especially if DHT is high and/or testosterone.
- Estrogen is needed to have the energy for arousal and to feel comfortable, and well rested. A menopausal woman who is dry, tired, flushing and does not sleep will not be in the mood. Estrogen also lubricates the vagina. Painful sex is a turnoff and sometimes lubricants alone don’t work. For women who do not want or can’t take hormone replacement therapy, vaginal estrogen may be a solution. There is a weak estrogen called estriol that must be compounded. This works specifically on skin and mucous membranes and does not have the same effects of estradiol.
- Progesterone if low, can interfere with sleep and make a woman anxious and irritable. Many women who suffer from PMS, post-partum depression, or perimenopause do not make enough progesterone.
- Thyroid acts on every cell of your body and plays a role in energy, memory, weight, metabolism, fertility, temperature control and bowel movements.
- Oxytocin the love hormone, can get you in the mood. There are ways to boost it naturally. Oxytocin’s benefits go beyond the ability to achieve multiple orgasms, improve erections, increase bonding and developing monogamous relationships, it reduces, pain, anxiety, stress, and a whole lot more. It bonds people and if the natural ways don’t boost it, it can prescribed by a physician and made into a nasal spray or taken in a lozenge.
- Cortisol – All these hormones must be in balance. The big culprit that is often overlooked is cortisol, the stress hormone. Many people don’t think they are stressed, however any change in your environment, diet, exercise, sleep, alcohol, or sugar intake can unconsciously be perceived as stress and raise cortisol levels. Trauma either physical or mental, infections and toxins can also play a role. All these need to be addressed, however some relaxation techniques and supplements can lower or raise it. This is a pivotal hormone that you can control. It will affect all the other hormones. Oftentimes when this is optimal, the rest of the hormones fall in line. You can learn more about how to manage it in the Care4U Course “The Cortisol Solution.”
Get in the Mood
Women need to be well rested and at ease and begin with more foreplay and romance to get in the mood.
- Set the time and date when you will be relaxed and free of distractions. Do your best to be well rested. Set the stage, use silky sheets, perhaps add candles and a scent, and get started with kissing, cuddling, stroking each other, and looking into the other person’s eyes. This boosts oxytocin and forms bonds.
- Fantasize. Imagine what it was like when you had satisfying sex and if you never had satisfying sex then find what others did to make it happen. Imagining fabulous sex can bring it into fruition because most sexual desire starts in the mind.
- Explore. Netflix has a series called Sex, Love and Goop. A colleague of mine recommended it to many patients who found it helpful. You can get some ideas from the courageous couples’ journey toward more pleasurable sex and deeper intimacy with help from Gwyneth Paltrow and a team of experts in this reality series. I haven’t watched it, but it comes highly recommended.
- Increase circulation to your genital area. There are compounded preparations that if applied to the genitals increase the engorgement of blood that can lead to desire and enhance orgasm. That tingling feeling can lead to desire. Topical Viagra or a cream with aminophylline, arginine, and naltrexone can feel stimulating on your genitals and get you in the mood.
- Painful sex will turn you off to trying. Toxin free Julva with DHEA or Revaree, a hyaluronic acid moisturizer are good choices.
It’s All About Relationship and Trust
You can’t fully let go and enjoy sex if you don’t feel good about yourself or if you don’t trust or are angry or resentful towards your partner.
- Your relationship with yourself is critical. Sexual issue in women can be due to poor body image, low self-esteem and/or low feelings of physical and emotional satisfaction and happiness. Emily Nagoski’s book “Come as You Are: Revised and Updated: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life” outlines groundbreaking research and found that things like stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Learn to love yourself and be yourself and seek counseling if you are not satisfied.
- Your relationship with your partner is just as important. Desire is a very complex issue. The pandemic had many people locked in together day and night and it may not have brought out the best in a relationship. Empty nesters children returned, privacy was limited, and people may have gotten on each other’s nerves or bored with each other. Open communication is key and if there are underlying issues that you can’t solve, work with a therapist to work on your relationship.
Get a check up
There could be other factors such as illness, depression, or medications that can affect your sex drive. If your hormones are low, they need to be tested and prescribed by a physician.
Try some of these tips to get your sex drive in gear. If you need assistance, fill out an application for a free, no obligation clarity call to see if a Functional Medicine approach is right for you.