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In the mood for sex tonight, darling?

In the mood for sex tonight, darling? | Jo Divine

In the mood for sex tonight, darling?

How many times have you heard the phrase “she’s hormonal” to explain the way a woman may be behaving?

We use this term frequently, both women and men – but a recent study led by Dr John Randolph at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (Nov 2014) has found that hormones play a lesser role in the way a woman feels, in particular, relating to sexual function and the role of testosterone in her body.

The study found that psychological issues played a far bigger role in affecting a woman’s mood. The ongoing Study of Women’s Health across the Nations (SWAN) analysed the relationship between reproductive hormones and sexual function during menopause in 3,302 women.

The research found that women who had naturally higher levels of testosterone reported feeling sexual desire more frequently than women with low levels, but the relationship between sexual function and hormones is fairly subtle. Many women who reported fewer sad moods and better levels of sexual function and desire also reported having higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship.

It has always been considered that women with low levels of testosterone suffer from sexual function problems, but measuring testosterone levels in women who experience sexual problems is not helpful as testosterone levels are generally low in all women.

When the levels get really low, the results are often inaccurate, making it difficult to tell what is normal and what is not as testosterone levels fluctuate widely between individual women.

Also, prescribing testosterone therapy in healthy women is not advised as the long term side effects are unknown. However some women can take very low dose testosterone for menopausal symptoms.

When a woman seeks advice for a sexual function problem, it is important for her doctor to consider her relationship first to find out if the cause may be psychological. Often, unhappy relationships lead to sexual problems: stress caused by money worries, family life and work issues can impact upon sexual function, leading to more anxiety.

Stress can cause many health problems, including vaginismus, pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness, low libidio and lethargy.

Medication can cause sexual dysfunction, such as antidepressants. These are often prescribed to treat the health problems but can exacerbate any sexual problems. Changing to another drug may alleviate symptoms. Many women are often incorrectly prescribed antidepressants for menopausal symptoms which would respond better to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

The sexual function problem may be related to her partner, such as erectile dysfunction, caused by stress and anxiety which is affecting their sex life.

When seeking medical advice, the doctor will take blood specimens to measure hormone levels but also needs to consider any psychological issues between a woman and her partner, their home life, work and family responsibilities and lifestyle issues, such as diet and exercise. If the woman is shouldering all the responsibilites for caring for her family and holding down a job, this can greatly increase stress and anxiety. A man may be worrying about his job security, money worries or feeling stressed too.

Often many couples are just too tired for sex as a result of their lifestyle and work commitments

These non-hormonal factors should be considered first before drug therapy is prescribed and appropriate counselling by a professional person offered.

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