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Health & Wellbeing / Claire Blackmore

The Body Experts: Are Hormones Killing Your Libido?

Libido, or sex drive as it’s more commonly known, is the magical mojo that governs lust, desire and the urge to reproduce – it’s your motivation to get sexual and an important part of our happiness.

What makes a “normal” and healthy libido though will differ from woman to woman, and can also rise and fall throughout your life. Sometimes you might find yourself horny af, other times you can quite happily do without. Sound about right?

Today we hear how hormones can affect your sex drive and what to do if your libido is a little out of whack.

So, what hormones are responsible for sexual function in females?

The main hormones that can affect sexual desire in women are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Testosterone is mostly thought of as a male hormone, but women also produce small amounts in the ovaries and adrenal glands and is an “important hormone for libido and also for mood, concentration and energy,” says Dr Louise Newson, a GP who holds regular women’s health clinics at Spire Parkway Hospital. Having adequate levels of oestrogen is super-important too for maintaining the healthy environment of the vagina – including producing lubrication, maintaining elasticity of the skin, and improving the blood flow to the area to enable arousal and orgasm.

What can cause a dip in sex drive?

It goes without saying that our hormones and mood can fluctuate throughout the month, but when *exactly* are you more likely to feel frisky during your monthly cycle and when does that sexual desire tend to dip? Studies have shown that when oestrogen levels are at the highest in the body – just before and around the time of ovulation, during the second week of your cycle – libido will generally be at its peak. The desire-deadening effect of progesterone happens when progesterone level rises, usually after ovulation in week three of a monthly cycle.

There are so many other factors too that can contribute to a lack of libido in a woman. Birth control – such as the pill or implant – can alter the cyclical nature of hormones, and hormone balance can also be thrown off kilter by general life circumstances. “This can be stress – caused by life, family, work, any chronic illness, relationship problems and tiredness.  Reduced levels of oestrogen and testosterone reduce libido but also cause so many other symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, reduced self esteem, loss of confidence, weight gain and vaginal dryness which can all contribute to reduced libido in women,” says Dr Newson.

What can be done to boost a flagging libido?

First of all, try to reduce stress levels with the aim of protecting your body’s natural hormone balance – too much stress depletes the adrenal glands that are responsible for the production of testosterone. An iron deficiency can be a factor in decreased sexual desire so increasing your iron intake, or taking a iron supplement can help. Other natural supplements such as maca, are also known to boost a low sex drive. The NHS advises speaking to your GP if you’re concerned a lack of libido may be linked to your hormones. They may ask about any other symptoms you have, and sometimes they may do a blood test to check your hormone levels, or can discuss your current contraception choices.

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