Low libido? Your gynecologist may have a solution

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A healthy sex drive is something all women want, right? Well, it turns out approximately 30 percent of women deal with a decreased libido at some point in their lives, but many are either too embarrassed to talk about it or just don't think it's a big enough deal to discuss with their doctors.

Patricia Grade, MD, and Jennifer Simone, MD, often see women dealing with low libido in their OB/GYN practice and share what you need to know about this common concern.

1. Lack of libido isn't a one-factor issue.

"Women in general can take on too much and expect too much of themselves," Dr. Simone said. "Finding balance and prioritizing self-care is an important part of addressing libido issues."

If you're dealing with low sex drive, there are many contributing factors, including:

  • Diet.
  • Exercise.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Medications and supplements.
  • Stress.
  • Lack of nonsexual intimacy in the relationship.

It's easy to think of libido as a light switch that can easily be turned on and off, but that's not the case. If you're a new mother, the postpartum period especially can be a trying time due to lack of sleep, lack of help around the house, self-confidence issues and anxiety.

2. Low libido may not actually be the issue.

The mainstream introduction of libido therapies for men has made it very easy for men to "fix" many sexual health issues that occur with age through testosterone therapy or Viagra. Dr. Grade argues that "because of this, women may experience even more guilt and stress for feeling like they can't match that same sex drive or 'fix' the same problem, but it's a false comparison."

Low libido also can be a side effect of an overall unhealthy lifestyle. In the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock gains weight by eating fast food. He starts feeling depressed and loses his sex drive. If your desk job has you sitting most of the day, or you're grabbing fast food on the way to soccer practice, focus on making healthier lifestyle choices. They may help increase your libido.

3. A lot of misconceptions and myths surround hormone replacement therapy.

You may have heard that hormone replacement therapy leads to serious adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, but this isn't necessarily true.

Practitioners today use bioidentical hormones that may not carry the same risks. Subsequent studies have shown that some of the possible issues, such as an increased cardiovascular risk, can be mitigated with regular exercise. This doesn't mean that hormone replacement therapy is totally risk-free. The decision to use hormones as part of a treatment plan for low libido needs to be an educated one you make with your doctor.

4. A relationship with your doctor is important.

While your well-woman exam may not be something you look forward to, it's an important part of your overall healthcare. Telling your gynecologist that you're experiencing problems can open a helpful dialogue.

Here's how to get the most out of your visit:

  • Write down your questions beforehand. This will ensure that you won't forget important issues you want to discuss. Because it's easy for anxiety or embarrassment to take over, having a written list will help you cover your main points.
  • Be prepared for more than one visit. It may take two to three visits to address all your questions and get things moving toward a more positive path. If you have topics you want to discuss at length, it may be helpful to ask if you can schedule a "question visit," instead of trying to squeeze everything in during your wellness exam.
  • Be open-minded. While doing research in advance is a great way to educate yourself, it's important to listen to your healthcare provider and review all of the possible options presented. This creates a true partnership where you can work together to make the right choices for you.

Bottom line: If you're experiencing low libido, various treatment options are available. Making an appointment with your gynecologist to discuss your questions and concerns is the first step.

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