Menopause & Libido

The Boomer Ladies today were the free-love Babes of yesteryear. It's hard to believe there was a time when sex was just what you did. Now, in the throes of menopause, sex tends to be something that you either want to stay away from because it hurts, or you just don't care like you used to about enjoying the intimacy. Yet, somewhere in your mind and heart you really are concerned that you just don't feel like you used to about sex. What is going on?

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

They now have a clinical name for it: Hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. It's not that there are more women experiencing lack of libido, it's likely that more women are more confident and ask their doctors, talk out loud about the subject, and are proactive when it comes to changing the situation. Perhaps one of the catalysts that prompted this forward motion is how successfully male dysfunction has been treated. Viagra is a well-known name and it became that way because men got vocal. Not only that, but, let's face it - a man takes Viagra and he's good to go. Unfortunately, when they tried the drug on women it went nowhere.

Multi-factorial Sex Drive

Maybe the reason for that is because a woman's sex drive is multi-factorial. Certainly it is physical, but it is also sensory in other ways. If a woman is depressed or emotionally stressed, sex is the last thing she's thinking about. Truth told if it smells bad in the room, or there's way too much noise outside, it can affect things, too. Beyond that, the aging process itself has a huge bearing on the sex drive of women.

"The very fact that a woman is no longer ovulating regularly, or not ovulating at all, automatically takes her sex drive down a few notches," says Steven Goldstein, MD, professor of ob-gyn at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

How true that statement is. Do you remember how sexy and desirous of sex you were just before you ovulated and for a few days afterward? Isn't it funny how that timing coincides with the prime time to become pregnant? It's no accident - it's the way we're built. So, when you are no longer ovulating and the hormones that prompted the whole "let's make a baby" drive is going downhill fast, your libido goes with it.

Estrogen and Testosterone

Estrogen, one of the primary hormones (along with progesterone and testosterone) is, among other things, a mood elevator. It works on two levels, in the brain the keep interest in sex alive, and in the genitals making feeling more sensitive and pleasurable. When the estrogen is depleted, you lose the feeling and gain the pain of dryness as vaginal tissue dries out and shrinks. Consequently, intercourse hurts, or at best is uncomfortable. Who wants to make love when it is painful? And, to top it all off, the old adage of "use it or lose it" kicks in here because the less sex you have, the drier and more painful it will be when you do have sex. It's a lose-lose situation.

Along with waning estrogen levels, recent research indicates that testosterone levels have an impact on lost libido as well. Even though the male hormone is present in only very small amounts, it is a critical factor in a woman's sex drive. So, when hormone levels are erratic, the impact hits hard in terms of lack of desire.

Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, an endocrinologist and chair of the department of medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is one the America's leading researchers on testosterone treatment in women. He said, "There are a lot of physical reasons a woman can experience a decrease in sexual desire. But for many women who are otherwise healthy, a drop in testosterone that occurs at midlife is the reason."

A cruel twist of fate for many women is that the very methods they choose to deal with the midlife menopausal issues are also problematic when it comes to sex drive. HRT or low-dose birth control pills, designed to replace hormones in the body, actually end up knocking out the testosterone. "When these hormones are taken orally, they are metabolized by the liver, which in turn puts out a protein that binds to testosterone, causing a deficiency," says Braunstein. He suggests the way to deal with it is to introduce testosterone in tiny doses back into the body.

Things are Looking Up for Women

Although men do have more options when it comes to addressing their libido, things are picking up for women. You can visit your doctor and ask about some of the following things to help reignite the sexual fire:

· Have a blood test to check for low thyroid function and iron deficiency anemia. Both of these disorders have a profound effect upon sex drive.

· Localized estrogen therapy, unlike oral estrogens that carry some cancer concerns, are actually placed right inside the vagina by way of a small vaginal suppository, or creams or rings that sit in the vagina and emit small doses of estrogen over time. They soothe the vaginal walls and allow for the proper secretions that make for comfortable sex. They potentially can increase the desire for sex as well.

· Compounding pharmacies that make medicines from scratch are able - with a prescription from your doctor - to create a testosterone cream that can be placed inside the vagina to increase sensation.

The good news is that you don't have to say no to sex any longer. Find out more about menopause and its wide range of effects in this section.

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