Low Libido in Women: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment Options

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Having a healthy sex life is a high priority for many. That said, low sexual desire (or low libido) can be cause for concern. A lack of sexual interest can be attributed to a myriad of factors ranging from hormone changes to low self-esteem. New life stages, such as pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause, can cause a season of decreased sexual desire.

It’s completely normal for libido to fluctuate. Your sex drive can take a nosedive in your early 30s and spike in one’s late 30s, and neither scenario necessarily signals a health problem. It’s important to note that libido is not one-size-fits-all.

How do I know if my libido is low? What constitutes low libido depends on you. Some of us have a naturally lower sexual drive, and as long as it isn’t bothersome, that’s fine. Your libido can be considered low when your desire for sexual activity dips in a way that negatively affects your daily routine or quality of life.

Is Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder the same as low sex drive? Consistent low libido (6 months or more) can mean a medical condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) which is a form of sexual dysfunction. The North American Menopause Society claims it’s the most prevalent sexual desire disorder among women of all ages. Even so, the good news is that HSDD and low libido are both identifiable and quite treatable.

Low Libido Symptoms 

What are the symptoms of low libido in women? Symptoms of low libido in women start with a concerning lack of interest in sex. Additional symptoms include:

  • Decline in sexual activities (including foreplay and masturbation)
  • Difficulty responding to a partner’s sexual advances
  • Disinterest in sex or sexual activity
  • Lack of enjoyment/pleasure from sex
  • Significant decrease in sexual initiations

As we’ve stated, your normal, baseline libido is unique to you. That means symptoms don’t look the same for everyone. If you are concerned about changes in your sex drive, that’s enough of a reason to take them seriously.

10 Causes of Lowered Sex Drive in Women

1. Anxiety or Depression

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can cause a sharp decline in a woman’s libido. These conditions impact energy levels, body image, and interpersonal relationships. Symptoms can also keep you from being present with your partner.

Additionally, antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically prescribed to help manage symptoms of these conditions. Unfortunately, they can have sexual side effects such as low libido.

2. Stress

Stress can also cause low  libido. So many schedules are overbooked, leading to excess hurry and busyness. Attempting to fit everything in, from work and family time to social events and kids’ activities, can lead to exhaustion.

 When cortisol, the stress hormone, is constantly elevated, it can be harder to become aroused. Not only that, but satisfaction can be inhibited. Unfortunately, this can lead to more stress for many women and lead to further difficulty in the bedroom.

3. Medications

We already touched on lowered libido as a side effect of antidepressants. A 2016 study found this to be the case, especially during the adjustment period when participants began taking their medication. Other medications that can cause lowered sex drive and further sexual dysfunction include:

Oral contraceptives, which lower testosterone levels in women, can also cause a decline in sex drive. 

4. Physical Illness

Nonsexual illness can impact sexual function from desire to performance. This probably doesn’t come as a shock. Any sickness can cause stress and fatigue in addition to any primary symptoms.

If you’ve been feeling sick, your body might need some time to bounce back before you feel the same sexual urges you felt beforehand.

5. Chronic Health Conditions

Battling a chronic illness can decrease libido as well. The nature of the illness and its symptoms or the treatment can affect sex drive. Between the physical discomfort of an illness and the stress of coping with a diagnosis, sex can naturally seem less important. Sexual dysfunction is prevalent among those dealing with:

6. Hormonal Imbalance

Abnormal hormone levels can also cause sexual problems. For instance, peri-menopausal women’s estrogen levels begin to drop, which can cause vaginal dryness. This lack of natural lubrication can lead to pain with penetration.

Estrogen is the usual suspect, but testosterone plays a large part in female arousal as well. When hormones are out of balance, you may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Bloating
  • Breast changes
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Muscle aches
  • Unexplained weight changes

None of these symptoms contribute to feeling sexy — it’s no surprise that diminished sex drive is often a sign of hormone changes.

7. Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

Fluctuating hormones, fatigue, and physical discomfort are not a sexy internal cocktail. The physical and psychological changes that come with pregnancy impact most couples’ sex lives.

Not to mention, whether pregnant or breastfeeding, you might be too focused on your little one to make room for sex. Such a significant yet wonderful distraction is enough to push your libido further down the priority list. 

After giving birth, women’s hormones drop significantly. If she breastfeeds, those hormones will stay low until she starts cycling again, which will generally happen only once breast feeding is stopped or significantly reduced. That drop in hormones can feel like an early menopause and come with a lot of the same symptoms, including lower libido and potentially painful sex. 

8. Difficult or Painful Sex

If sex has become excessively challenging or uncomfortable, this can lower libido. If your partner struggles with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, blood flow to the genitals could be obstructed, causing erectile dysfunction.

Suffering from conditions like vulvodynia or endometriosis can certainly make sex less pleasurable. Also, if you’re going through menopause, you may experience thinning of vaginal tissues or vaginal dryness, which can cause sex to be painful.

9. Relationship Issues

A relationship built on connection is the foundation of intimacy, so relationship problems can certainly dampen one’s libido. It would be well worth your time to analyze your current relationship to see if there are any issues, such as distrust, insufficient communication, or excessive conflicts, that are affecting your ability to connect.

Also, if you’ve experienced sexual abuse in the past, this can cause hesitancy when it comes to intimacy in a relationship. Seeing a therapist could help you process the past trauma.

10. Poor Body Image

It’s no secret that women care a great deal about body image. A 2016 study found that the more positive a woman’s view of her body, the better her sexual function.  Several factors affect body image:

  • Peers
  • Physical features (height, skin clarity, hair thickness/texture/color)
  • Self-esteem
  • Social media
  • Weight gain/loss

Should a woman lose confidence in her appearance, this could affect how she feels in the bedroom.

11. Age

It is very common to experience less sexual desire with age. This is true for both men and women due to lifestyle changes, chronic illness, and medications. As we get older, sex hormones decline, and sexual desire depends more on external factors and mental arousal.

12. Alcohol Consumption

It is widely held that alcohol helps you release your inhibitions and boosts confidence. However, studies show this may be more to do with expectations — women tend to report feeling aroused despite the opposite physiological response.

We do know that alcohol impacts hydration, which might make it difficult for your vagina to self-lubricate. In addition, it can decrease genital sensitivity, making it more difficult to reach orgasm. 

Frequent alcohol consumption — and subsequently unsatisfying sex — may contribute to a decline in sexual desire.


If low sex drive is impacting your well-being, reach out to the team at PrimeHealth or contact your gynecologist. To prepare for your appointment, document when and to what extent you experience the effects of low libido. Have questions ready to pose to your healthcare provider.

Likely, the physician will conduct a physical exam to determine if any changes have gone undetected. Then, your doctor will inquire about the following:

  • Chronic conditions
  • Contraception methods
  • Medications
  • Mental/emotional health
  • Sexual health

Blood tests may be recommended to check hormone levels or to check for any abnormalities. If the issue appears to be emotional or mental, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or a therapist. If pelvic floor tightness or injury are a concern, you may be referred to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.

6 Lifestyle Changes to Boost Your Libido

How can I increase my libido? You can increase your libido naturally by making some lifestyle changes, approaching your sex life differently, or talking to a healthcare professional for guidance.

  1. Eat well: Remember, food is medicine. Make sure your body receives proper nutrition. Incorporate plenty of leafy greens and vegetables, healthy fats, and organic and well-sourced meat into your diet. If nothing else, you’ll have improved energy and lower inflammation which has been linked to a stronger sex drive.
  2. Exercise: Try to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. The resulting increased energy could boost libido. Exercise can also optimize hormone levels that have been linked to libido such as cortisol and insulin.
  3. Sleep: Do what it takes to get plenty of sleep each night. According to a 2015 study, sleep is linked to a healthy sexual response in women. 
  4. Limit alcohol: If wine gets you in the mood, stick to one glass. 
  5. Manage stress: Keep your cortisol levels in check by participating in activities that relax you. Incorporate walks, reading, scenic drives, or whatever puts your mind at ease into your schedule. If you’re unsure about your cortisol levels, you can see a Functional Medicine practitioner like us to have those properly tested. 
  6. Get intimate: Sexual desire increases with improved emotional intimacy. Carve out time for non-sexual activities that can strengthen the bond between you and your partner.

Clinical Treatment Options

If you’ve done everything you can and need further treatment to get your sex drive back, partner with your healthcare team to try the following:

  1. Sex therapy: Make an appointment to speak with a licensed sex therapist. Many women have used therapy to help determine the root cause of their loss of libido.
  2. Medication: TheFDA has approved a few medications to improve desire. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
  3. Hormone therapy: Postmenopausal women and women who have recently given birth or stopped taking birth control might need some help adjusting to hormonal shifts. This will normally mean taking pills, using topical creams, or taking sublingual lozenges  of hormones. Your doctor can walk you through options for hormone replacement therapy. 
  4. Herbal therapy: There are many herbs that can help with hormone balancing. You can speak with an herbalist or a Functional Medicine provider to help you decide if herbal therapy can help in your situation. 
  5. Pelvic Floor Therapy

Need help navigating hormonal health? Schedule a free consultation with PrimeHealth. We realize that your sexual experience can be a sensitive subject. We take the utmost care to ensure you feel comfortable in broaching any topic in regard to your health.

If you’re interested in working toward hormonal health with a community of women in a judgment-free environment, check out our Women’s Health Group Program.

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