Lack of libido or female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) as it’s technically known, is a common reason women consult with me. This can happen at any age and for a variety of different reasons.
While anthropologically it is suggested that men have higher libidos than women, in my practice I am consistently seeing the ravages of stress, ill-health and relationship problems, on men’s libidos too.
However today's vlic is about women and there are so many reasons why women of any age can be affected by female sexual arousal disorder.
Many women didn’t come from families who were comfortable with helping them create healthy sexual identities and as a result haven’t really learned how to enjoy their own sexuality, especially independently. If you don’t become aware of how your body works and what turns you on most, it’s more difficult to then guide your partner towards truly satisfying sex in the long-term. As a result, many women I speak to don’t really see the true value in sex for themselves and see it more as something that they are “doing” for their partner.
This is exacerbated by the fact that in my opinion women often need to feel loved before they can have sex and men need to have sex in order to feel loved - which I feel partly explains the belief that men have much higher libidos than women, don’t get me wrong though testosterone has something to do with it too.
Anyway, women are less able to have sex when they don’t feel connected thus creating the perfect storm around sex, a libido killer in itself.
It’s very difficult for both men and women to keep their libidos going if their relationship is not strong. It’s difficult to have sex, and impossible to have good sex, when there’s any amount of anxiety or resentment present. The good news though is that once the physiological problems are ruled out, therapy can help take care of the psychological problems.
While women can have it at any time, the most common time to experience libido problems are after having a baby or as they approach menopause. It’s no coincidence that these are both times when hormones are being affected.
Women with babies or young children tend to be less interested in sex often due to sheer exhaustion caused by a lack of sleep. Hormonal fluctuations and the fact that they are getting so many demands made on them physically can also leave them lacking the wherewithal for sex. As one of my clients in flood of tears so succinctly put it; “Everywhere I turn, whether it’s the baby, my 2 year old, my 5 year old or my husband, someone is trying to use my body to get one of their needs met. I feel bad for my husband as he is the one usually at the end of the queue. For the last six months it’s hard to feel sexy when you feel like a dairy cow and you’re covered in baby puke”.
This can have some negative effects on the relationship which can be dealt with with compassion, understanding, and failing that some good Couples Therapy, but often the body readjusts and a woman’s libido comes back.
My advice is to set time aside specifically for each other, where you’re not talking about work or the children but you’re really focusing on each other at a deeper level. It may be of benefit to get away from the house or to at least ensure that you have some time and space to refocus.
Set a very clear intention for that time to focus on each other and your connection, including some kind of physical intimacy too, especially if your partner’s love language is physical. It’s really important to remember that there’s more to physical intimacy than intercourse and orgasm.
Nearly every father I speak to tells me in one way or another how lonely he felt when the baby came along and how it would be selfish to say too much about it to his wife. Sadly instead it often comes out in hurtful, demanding or resentful ways or at the very least causes him to start shutting down.
The good news is for most women, even if they don’t feel like having sex but they go ahead and do it, not only for the benefit of their partner and the relationship, but also the (enormous yet often overlooked) benefit for themselves, very often they are really happy they did afterwards. While you don't need to have desire in order to have enjoyable sex, it helps that your partner is happy for you to teach him how to give you your favourite type of foreplay, so you can get to the more motivational 'turned on' stage quickly.
Many of my female clients are in their 40s or 50s and have older children and there are circumstantial reasons why they should find themselves less interested in sex. Stress, lack of privacy, depression, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with their physical appearance can all cause a woman to lose interest in sex.
It is generally believed that as women approach menopause the likelihood of FSAD increases due to physiological reasons. Ovaries stop making estrogen causing the lining of the vagina to become thinner and lubrication to decline, which can lead to more painful sex. The vagina can also become less elastic as muscle tone decreases, sometimes causing difficulties climaxing. Declining hormone levels can often lead to a lack of libido and weight gain.
The first two problems can often be dealt with with lubricants (make sure you choose a healthy one), and Pelvic floor exercises in the form of Pilates or Yoga Or devices like Yoni Eggs.
While healthy daily exercise is crucial not just for our sexuality but for also for our well-being, oftentimes it’s not enough to deal with the declining hormone levels and the stubborn weight gain that can go with that.
Personally I am not a big believer in Hormone Replacement Therapy, regardless of whether they are bio identical hormones. I think that by the time a woman reaches her late 40s or early 50s all the synthetic hormones she has taken in the form of birth control and all the toxins and heavy-metals that have accumulated in her body pretty much guarantee hormonal dysfunction in menopause, peri-menopause or even younger.
I personally have found that radically changing my diet, exercising regularly, having a regular mindfulness practice, adopting effective Detox protocols (including having my amalgams removed) and ensuring that I have repopulated my gut microbiome with healthy bacteria has really helped me to re-balance my hormones without the need of hormone replacement therapy.
I encourage my clients not to be defined by the belief that with menopause comes a decline in the libido and instead focus on the many wonderful things that come with age. For example increased confidence, more wisdom, a better ability to communicate and ask for what you want and to enjoy it when you get it. Creativity and a lack of inhibition helps too.
It really is a case of use it or lose it, and research shows that women who enjoy sex, find it important and look after their health, are able to keep having richer, more nuanced yet vitality-affirming sexual experiences their whole life long.