Women’s sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years. Highs and lows commonly coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause or illness. Some medications used for mood disorders also can cause low sex drive in women.
If your lack of interest in sex continues or returns and causes personal distress, you may have a condition called sexual interest/arousal disorder.
But you don’t have to meet this medical definition to seek help. If you’re bothered by a low sex drive or decreased sex drive, there are lifestyle changes and sexual techniques that may put you in the mood more often. Some medications may offer promise as well.
If you want to have sex less often than your partner does, neither one of you is necessarily outside the norm for people at your stage in life — although your differences may cause distress.
Similarly, even if your sex drive is weaker than it once was, your relationship may be stronger than ever. Bottom line: There is no magic number to define low sex drive. It varies among women.
Symptoms of low sex drive in women include:
- Having no interest in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation
- Never or only seldom having sexual fantasies or thoughts
- Being concerned by your lack of sexual activity or fantasies
When to See a Doctor
If you’re concerned by your low desire for sex, talk to your doctor. The solution could be as simple as changing a medication you are taking, and improving any chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Desire for sex is based on a complex interaction of many things affecting intimacy, including physical and emotional well-being, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle, and your current relationship. If you’re experiencing a problem in any of these areas, it can affect your desire for sex.
1. Physical Causes
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
- Sexual problems. If you have pain during sex or can’t orgasm, it can reduce your desire for sex.
- Medical diseases. Many nonsexual diseases can affect sex drive, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and neurological diseases.
- Medications. Certain prescription drugs, especially antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are known to lower the sex drive.
- Lifestyle habits. A glass of wine may put you in the mood, but too much alcohol can affect your sex drive. The same is true of street drugs. Also, smoking decreases blood flow, which may dull arousal.
- Surgery. Any surgery related to your breasts or genital tract can affect your body image, sexual function and desire for sex.
- Fatigue. Exhaustion from caring for young children or aging parents can contribute to low sex drive. Fatigue from illness or surgery also can play a role in a low sex drive.
2. Hormone Changes
Changes in your hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. This can occur during:
- Menopause. Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can make you less interested in sex and cause dry vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex. Although many women still have satisfying sex during menopause and beyond, some experience a lagging libido during this hormonal change.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby and during breast-feeding can put a damper on sex drive. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby also can contribute to changes in your sexual desire.
3. Psychological Causes
Your state of mind can affect your sexual desire. There are many psychological causes of low sex drive, including:
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
- Poor body image
- Low self-esteem
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Previous negative sexual experiences
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. So problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low sex drive. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues, such as:
- Lack of connection with your partner
- Unresolved conflicts or fights
- Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
- Trust issues