Not wanting sex or feeling sexual is normal throughout life. Sexual energy is influenced by how well we feel, what’s happening in our lives, hormone levels and how connected we are to our bodies. Modern life is demanding and it’s easy to run ourselves ragged, not taking the time we need to replenish our energy levels. When we’re constantly stressed and tired, our bodies get used to being in ‘fight or flight’ mode and we produce adrenaline and prolactin to keep us going. Dr Sarah Brewer calls prolactin ‘the celibacy hormone’ as it dampens sex drive. When we’re working hard and juggling lots we can become disconnected from our bodies and sexual energy, our life force, which empowers us and helps us get things done. It can be used to create a child or build an empire so it’s worth nurturing!
Common physical factors affecting libido include hormonal changes – pregnancy, breastfeeding, contraception and menopause. Studies show that 30-50% of women are hit by a drop in sex drive for longer periods of time and may have related issues such as orgasm problems or painful sex. Stress from overwork and looking after children and ageing relatives is typical in our 30s/40s. Medication such as anti-depressants can also affect libido and so can excessive dieting – our bodies need a certain level of fat for sex hormones to function normally. A friend of mine recently commented that she feels much sexier at size 14 than she did when she was size 8/10.
What can I do to regain my libido?
Fortunately, there are things you can do to kick start it. If it’s been going on for over six months see your GP and find out if there’s a physical reason – often it’s a combination of physical and psychological. “Female sexuality is more complex, involving the heart, head and hormones,” says Harley Street gynaecologist Dr John Studd, which is why Viagra doesn’t work for women. Get your thyroid and hormone levels tested and mention any medications you are on, including contraception, to see if there’s an alternative. If sex has become painful because you’re menopausal and suffering from vaginal dryness, there is localised HRT (vaginal oestrogen rings) and organic lubricants like YES can help. Testosterone plays a key role in desire and Dr Studd prescribes low dose patches to around 50 women a week, which he says has helped many women to get their libidos back on track.
Sexual boredom can also be a factor: is it really your libido or are you just bored with your sex life? Try something new – sexuality workshops, toys and Tantric retreats can reconnect you with your body and give you a new perspective on sex. Erotica is also being used in sex therapy to help couples widen sex play and explore fantasies.
Talk to your partner, and tell them how you feel.
“Being mindful can also help”, says Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace. I recently set up The Libido Project, which involves keeping a libido diary for 50 days to see when the highs and lows are in my cycle and whether they are in line with a natural rise in LH (luteinizing hormone) at ovulation, which is a theory being explored by Swiss gynaecologist Dr Michel Jemec. Artificial LH may well be used to enhance libido in the future. A woman contacted me recently asking for updates on the research: “I lost my libido right after the birth of my first child – he is now 22 years old. I must have the most patient husband in the world; however, it has been a huge and the only strain on our marriage all these years”.
Are there any treatments that you would recommend?
I’d also recommend:
- Herbal medicine – certain herbs and plants can improve circulation by heightening sexual response. See a qualified medical herbalist for an individual prescription.
- Yoga – focus on pelvic moves (strengthening the mula bandha) and improving core strength to boost circulation in the genitals. Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening the breath, which is vital for full body orgasms.
- Be in your body more – exercise outdoors and masturbate more. Regular solo sex increases testosterone levels, which makes you want more sex.
- Strengthen your PC muscles for better sensation and stronger orgasms. Flexing them when you’re sat at a desk, driving or exercising can give you an orgasm when they are strong enough. Lack of feeling in the genitals is common post-childbirth and can be corrected by pelvic exercise. Jo Divine has a selection of quality toys for pelvic health, such as kegel exercise balls.
- Simplify your life and make time for your erotic life. Naomi Wolf explores the link between sex and creativity in her new book Vagina, and believes there’s a feedback loop with one enhancing the other.
- Sex therapist Pamela Stevenson reiterates the importance of solo play: “It’s helpful to be apart from time to time rather than to be under each other’s feet. It’s possible to be too close. Often, when I see people with low libido it’s because they’ve become too enmeshed – I’ve never had a problem with my libido.” She says writing her sex books made her ‘permanently horny’, so why not have a go at writing some erotica just for you.
- Revive your diet to improve energy levels. “For peak sexual performance, it’s worth eating foods high in zinc (red meat, oysters, peanuts, sunflower seeds) and magnesium (wholegrains, pulses, nuts, greens), both of which are directly related to the production of sex hormones and neurotransmitters that control libido,” says personal trainer Dax Moy. Oily fish will also increase blood circulation to the genital area and maca works in a similar way to LH, naturally boosting energy levels and sex drive.
- Create sensual massage oils