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Lack of sex drive in women (lack of libido)



Lack of sex drive in women (lack of libido)
Lack of sex drive (lack of libido) is common in women, but quite rare in men. The American Medical Association has estimated that several million US women suffer from what doctors there call 'female sexual arousal disorder' (FSAD).
However, there seems to be an FSAD bandwagon, driven by doctors who think that nearly half the female population (43 per cent) lack sex drive. Such a high number really doesn’t seem likely.
In the UK, family planning clinics and Relate clinics see quite large numbers of women who complain of low libido. Our estimate is that at any one time, several hundred thousand women in Britain are troubled by lack of sex drive.
Many of these women have no problems with having orgasms. Rather, they have no real desire to have sex and their minds are not turned on by the prospect of love-making.
Fortunately, for many women this lack of libido is only temporary. Some will get over it by themselves, and a lot more can be helped by expert medical or psychosexual advice. Others do not really want to get back into the world of rampaging sexual desire and are quite happy to lead lives which are untroubled by lust.
What are the causes of lack of libido in women?
As is the case with men, lack of desire in women can be of either physical or psychological origin.
Physical causes
Anaemia, which is very common in women because of iron loss during periods.
Alcoholism.
Drug abuse.
Major diseases such as diabetes.
Post-baby 'coolness', a term we have coined for the loss of libido that often happens after childbirth. It is almost certainly linked to hormonal changes that occur at this time. The general trauma of childbirth also plays a part - and after having a baby, many women are too exhausted to think about sex.
Prescribed drugs, particularly tranquillisers.
Hyperprolactinaemia - a rare disorder in which the pituitary gland is overactive.
Other hormone abnormalities: leading Swiss gynaecologist Dr Michael Nemec claims that abnormalities in the production of luteinising hormone (LH) often cause lack of desire. And top British gynaecologist John Studd says that many women who have lost their libido lack androgenic (male) hormones. This view remains controversial.
You may be surprised that we haven't mentioned the menopause as a physical cause of loss of desire.
Contrary to myth, the menopause doesn't usually cause loss of libido, and many women feel a lot sexier and have more orgasms in the postmenopausal part of their life.
Psychological causes
These causes are very common. It's understandable that when a woman is having a bad time emotionally, she may lose interest in sex.
Psychological causes include:
depression
stress and overwork
anxiety
hang-ups from childhood
past sexual abuse or rape
latent lesbianism
serious relationship problems with your partner
difficult living conditions, eg sharing a home with parents or parents-in-law.
What should a woman do about lack of libido?
Start by going to your GP, who can discuss the problem with you and do any necessary tests.
An alternative is to go to a woman doctor at a family planning clinic, since these practitioners are used to dealing with this particular problem.
Unfortunately, in the last few years family planning clinics have become swamped with patients, and many of them now won't take on psychosexual difficulties.
If psychological or relationship factors are predominant, it may well be worth going to Relate or Relationships Scotland. They are very experienced in these matters.
Are there any medicines for female loss of desire?
While it’s clear that the big pharmaceutical companies are searching for a drug that will turn women on, they have had little success.
At present, drugs are not of much relevance to the average woman who wants to pep up her libido a bit.
Far more important is to have the support and understanding of a partner who wants to help you defeat the problem - and who understands how to get you excited in bed.
Testosterone
Hormones are often suggested as a treatment for FSAD, particularly the male sex hormone testosterone.
Doctors have been trying out testosterone on women for more than 40 years, rarely with much benefit. Side-effects include hairiness, spots, a deep voice and enlargement of the clitoris.
However, there is clinical evidence to support the use of testosterone as a treatment for low sexual desire. In 2007 a testosterone skin patch called Intrinsa became available in the UK.
This patch is only licensed on the NHS for women who have had an early surgically-induced menopause. Obviously, this is quite a small number of people.
We do know that Intrinsa is being prescribed privately for other women with low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) as it is now being termed. So far, reactions to this drug are mixed.
Suction vibrators
Inventions that are supposed to increase female desire come and go.
In 2001 a device called the EROS was approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating low sexual desire.
The gadget applies suction to the clitoris and so increases desire. Cost is around £200.
The EROS has made relatively little impact in the UK. Our opinion is that you could achieve much the same effect with any inexpensive suction vibrator. Currently, it is easy to buy such devices online for £20 to £30.
It is also undeniable that ordinary non-suction vibrators have helped a lot of women in the last decade.
Desire cream
A much hyped new 'desire cream' was also introduced in 2001. It contains an ingredient similar to wintergreen, and its effect is to produce a tingly sensation in the clitoris. It, too, has made little impact on British medical practice. There are various other similar products now available.
Erection drugs
Erection drugs like Viagra have still not been proven to help women who have a low libido.
There is some evidence that they may have a beneficial 'local' effect in increasing blood flow to the vagina and clitoris for a few hours. They may also increase lubrication in some women.
But in Britain, these drugs are not licensed for use in women.
Can low libido be cured?
Loss of desire can often be put right, but you need to look carefully at the causes of the problem – preferably with the loving cooperation of your partner. There aren’t usually any quick fixes.
A high proportion of women do eventually achieve a return to normal libido.