Low Sexual Drive
The lack of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.
- aka Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSSD)
- Must cause distress or interpersonal difficulty
- Cannot be accounted for by another major mental disorder
- Is not due solely to the effects of a substance or general medical condition
- 33% of women experience low sexual desire
- Several medical conditions and medications that can contribute to low libido, decreased arousal and decreased vaginal lubrication
- Pregnancy / lactation
- Chronic medical problems
- Prior history of sexual abuse or trauma
- Relationship issues, stress, body image issues. Evaluating these issues and discussing them with your partner or a sex therapist can improve sexual desire.
- Eliminating certain medications or treating underlying medical problems.
- Hormone replacement therapy – sex hormones like testosterone can increase your libido and it’s not just for men anymore.
- Addyi – new FDA approved for low libido for women.
- More common in women
- Up to 45% of women have experienced painful intercourse
- Pain can be felt in the vagina, clitoris and/or labia.
- Response to birth control
- Lack of appropriate lubrication
- Skin conditions
- Tight pelvic floor muscles
- Lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, vaginal dilators
- Vaginal Estrogen – lack of the sex hormone, estrogen, can decrease the moisture and elasticity of the vagina.
- Oral Medications – non hormonal.More common
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Blood pressure medication
- Muscle Relaxants
- Narcotic Analgesic
- Lubricants and moisturizers
- Topical estrogen cream, compounded estrogen/testosterone creams
- Systemic Hormone Replacement – estrogen patches or gels, testosterone creams or pellets and progesterone pills, creams or oils
- Elimination of medications that may cause the dryness
An involuntary spasm of the vagina with penetration and can occur with intercourse or even with a tampon. Due to vaginal and pelvic floor muscle spasms. Not uncommon but unfortunately it is often not discussed with medical providers.
Primary vaginismus is when the painful penetration has been ongoing over the woman’s lifetime.
Secondary vaginismus is when a woman previously had pain-free penetration and is now experiencing pain with penetration.
- Gynecological Trauma
- Childbirth or surgery
- Strict sexual upbringing
- Exposure to Sexually transmitted infection
- Relationship struggles
- Fear of sex
- Pelvic floor physical therapy
- Vaginal dilators
- Trigger point release
- Sex therapy and counseling
Chronic pain or discomfort around the opening of your vagina (vulva) for which there’s no identifiable cause and which lasts at least three months.
- Nerve damage to the vulva
- Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
- Sensitivity to certain foods
- Reaction to an infection
- Genetic disorders
- Local anesthetics
- Topical hormone creams
- Physical therapy
- Trigger point therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Chronic pain in the vestibule of the vagina provoked either by any penetration. The vestibule is where the external genitalia meets the vagina and includes the Bartholin’s glands and the urethra.
The pain is very individualized and can vary significantly. One person may be able to tolerate penetration for intercourse and another may not be able to even tolerate a tampon.
- Topical Anesthetics
- Vaginal Dilators
- Pelvic floor Physical Therapy
The peak of sexual activity where the greatest pleasure and excitement is received usually through stimulation of the sexual organ and resulting in ejaculation in males and vaginal contractions in females. The ability to orgasm and a women’s sexual satisfaction are directly correlated.
Only 30% of women can achieve orgasm through intercourse alone. You are not alone if having an orgasm is difficult for you. The clitoris must be properly stimulated during intercourse in order to achieve an orgasm. Sexual position has a lot to do with proper clitoral stimulation. Therefore, if you are not having an orgasm in one position, then change it up. Some women may experience more pleasure with stimulation of other genital areas other than the clitoris.
Every woman is different and if you are not having an orgasm every time you have sex it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Manual stimulation can be performed by you, your partner or a device (vibrator) and before, during or after intercourse to improve your chances of orgasm. No one knows your body better than you including knowing when sex is satisfying and when it’s not.
Menopause can play a role in your ability to orgasm as well. Hormones allow the vagina to be moist and supple and help with lubrication. Unfortunately, menopause causes a loss of hormonal supply to the vagina and thus increased difficulty achieving orgasm. Bioidentical hormone replacement can help with this.
There is no one clear reason for decrease in sexual arousal. It can be combined with low drive or even sexual pain. As aging happens blood flow slows down. In men, they have difficulty achieving an erection. In women, the ability to lubricate and become wet becomes more difficult. Therefore medications that increase blood flow like Viagra or Cialis can help women as well as men to increase their arousal.
Life can be busy and a busy schedule can absolutely play a role in decreased arousal. Women can find it difficult to turn off their minds during intercourse so instead of focusing on arousal we end up thinking about laundry or other responsibilities that need our attention.
I have had patients tell me that they just don’t know what all the fuss is about when it comes to sex. They get into bed with their partner and nothing seems to happen. Overtime, this can take its toll on sexuality and possible sexual avoidance which can result in relationship problems with your partner. Arousal can be a combination of several physiological changes in the body. These include but are not limited to: vaginal lubrication, nipple erections, vulvar swelling or a tingling sensation in the vagina. There are treatment options for every one of these situations.
Treatment for Arousal or Difficulty Achieving Orgasm:
- Topical treatments – warming agents, lubricants, moisturizers
- Medications / Hormone replacement
- Sex Therapy/ Counseling
The change has happened. You feel irritable and can’t seem to focus. One minute you are freezing cold and the next you can get your clothes off fast enough you are so hot. The night sweats soak your sheets. You can’t quite fit into your pants because your belly fat has gotten out of control and you don’t have the energy to exercise.
As women age, we lose our sex hormones starting in our 30’s and by 51 give or take a few years they have been depleted. If you have had a hysterectomy and removal of ovaries you may have been depleted of your hormones earlier. Estrogen, testosterone and progesterone are all sex hormones that play a vital role in a women’s body.
Vaginal tissues are kept moist and healthy by the sex hormones. When the level of these hormones get too low, the vaginal tissue suffers, becoming friable and dry, causing sex to be no fun or even painful.
Best known as the “women’s” hormone. Has many roles but is primarily responsible for the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system and sexual characteristics. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and in fat and it is then distributed to the body via the blood stream.
When we start to lose estrogen whether it is from menopause or menopause induced by a hysterectomy many changes take place and estrogen replacement a.k.a. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is very important. The goal of Estrogen HRT should be to achieve the lowest dose that reverses a woman’s symptoms.
Is estrogen dangerous or bad for me?
In 2002 the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) did a study on long term estrogen and progestin. The findings showed that the health risks of HRT outweighed the benefits and there were increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease. This study researched oral conjugated equine estrogen Premarin and only medroxyprogesterone acetate Prempro as the hormone replacement and these did show an increase in breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and pulmonary embolism.
This study did not take into effect the bio-identical hormones that are now available and found to be much safer than the equine estrogen that was used.
In 2017 the North American Menopause Society (www.menopause.org) reviewed the data and released a position statement indicating the safety of HRT.
The 2017 hormone therapy position state of The North American Menopause Society.
(Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society Vol. 24, No 7, pp 728-753)
Hormone Therapy (HT) remains the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (FSM and has been shown to prevent bone loss and fracture. The risks of HT differ depending on type, dose, and duration of use, route of administration, timing of initiation, and whether a progestogen is used. Treatment should be individualized to identify the most appropriate HT type, dose, formulation, route of administration, and duration of use, using the best available evidence to maximize benefits and minimize risks, with periodic reevaluation of the benefits and risks of continuing or discontinuing HT.
For Women younger than 60 years or who are within 10 years of menopause and have no contraindications, the benefit-risk ratio is most favorable for treatment of bothersome VMS and for those at high risk for bone loss or fracture. For women who initiate HT more than 10 or 20 years from menopause onset or are aged 60 years or older, the benefit-risk ratio appears less favorable because of the greater absolute risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, venous thromboembolism, and dementia. Longer durations of therapy should be for documented indications such as persistent VMS or bone loss, with shared decision making and periodic reevaluation. For bothersome GSM symptoms not relieved with over-the-counter therapies and without indications for use of systemic HT, low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy or other therapies are recommended.
Another sex hormone made by the body in the ovaries, adrenal glands and the placenta during pregnancy. It is used to thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation to nourish a fertilized egg. Some of the benefits of progesterone includes: promoting bone health and avoiding osteoporosis, protects against endometrial and breast cancer and many other functions. It is also the precursor for other hormones including estrogen and testosterone.
Testosterone is not FDA approved for women in the United States. There have been no large scale studies done for its use in women. However, there are a large number of prescriptions for testosterone written every year to treat women. Testosterone is a predominately male hormone but is also produced naturally in women. Like other sex hormones, testosterone is also produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands and is responsible for sexual desire, energy levels, mood and lean muscle mass.
The side effects of testosterone can be concerning for women however, the side effects rarely occur in women. The most common side effect will be hair growth and the application site of the testosterone. Other side effects, though rare, are aggressive behavior, clitoralmegally, hair loss and acne. The side effects can easily be reversed with dose adjustment of the testosterone.
Testosterone replacement options for women can be in the form of testosterone pellets that are easily placed in the upper outer buttocks or in the form of compounded gels or creams.
There are a number of over the counter and/or non hormonal treatment options available for patients that may be considered high risk for hormone replacement therapy. If you have a history of breast or uterine cancer, history of heart attack or stroke, have a history of blood clots or other bleeding disorders you are not a candidate for hormone replacement therapy. Those patients that are suffering from menopausal symptoms, vaginal dryness or sexual discomfort can find other non hormonal treatment options. Make your appointment today to discuss these options.
Addyi is the first FDA-approved treatment for acquired, generalized hypoactive (low) sexual desire disorder—HSDD— in women who have not gone through menopause. Symptoms of HSDD include low libido and associated distress.
Men have Viagra and Cialis and women have Addyi. This medication is not given as needed prior to sex but is given nightly to help adjust the neurotransmitters to increase your sexual drive. Make your appointment to see if Addyi is the right choice for you.