It’s normal for women to experience the ebbs and flows with our sex drive. Sometimes, loss of sexual interest is a natural consequence of several factors.
Maybe you and your partner had a fight. Perhaps you’re tired and stressed out after a long day of work. Maybe you’re distracted by other things. Or it could just be that the routine has become monotonous. Many emotional conditions can explain the lack of desire to engage in sexual activity, and these issues often resolve themselves.
But don’t be so quick to discount your age as a factor. A survey in the British Medical Journal found that women between the ages of 55 and 64 are two to three times more likely to experience a dip in their sex drive as they grow older.
While it’s true that many women in their mid-life still have the sexual energy of their younger self, it’s just as common to find yourself feeling rather unmotivated as you grow older. If this describes your situation, you’re not alone.
What age has to do with it
It’s all about the hormones. Hormones are substances released by your glands that act as messengers between your cells and organs. They are responsible for your body’s anticipation and natural preparation for sex and can affect a woman’s libido - and as we age our bodies produce less of them.
Estrogen helps control blood flow to the vagina, as well as keeping the vaginal area lubricated and elastic. When you are younger, higher levels of estrogen are associated with an increased sex drive.
Progesterone also plays a part in sexual desire, and these two hormones are secreted when your ovaries are ready to release a mature egg -- ensuring you are sexually active and fertile at the same time.
The ovaries (alongside the adrenal glands) also produce a small amount of testosterone, a sex hormone present in women, though it’s most commonly associated with men. In women, testosterone is converted into estrogen which helps your reproductive tissues grow, stay healthy, and repair - and as previously stated plays a role in sexual health.
As you enter perimenopause (8 - 10 years before you reach menopause and the end of your reproductive years) your ovaries slow their production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This hormonal shift can lead to a reduced sex drive, mood swings, and lower sexual satisfaction. When you reach menopause, usually between the ages 40 and 58, hormone levels dip even further.
These hormonal changes also impact how you experience sex. Because you no longer produce enough estrogen, your vaginal walls become thinner, drier, and less flexible. These changes can make the vaginal tissues susceptible to injury, tearing, and bleeding. Sex can become uncomfortable or even painful for you - so much that you might start avoiding it.
The age and emotional picture
Be aware, there are other reasons for age to impact sex drive too. A woman’s lowered libido can be a result of psychological factors such a growing lack of emotional closeness with a partner or due to age related illness, caretaking responsibilities, or the stress and fatigue from life’s responsibilities.
Sex drive and trying to conceive
If you and your partner are trying to conceive, you need to have regular, unprotected sex - every two to three days without contraception is recommended. Without the drive to fuel your desire for frequent intercourse, or if sex becomes uncomfortable or painful, this can result in sex feeling even more undesirable and potentially have an impact on your ability to keep trying to conceive.
If you’re concerned about your sex life while trying to conceive (or in general) it’s best to discuss your treatment options with a doctor, who may recommend an over-the-counter water or silicone based lubricant to make sex more enjoyable - just make sure to look for “sperm friendly” or “fertility friendly” formulas. Prescription options may include vaginal moisturizers or low-dose estrogen in a vaginal cream.
You can also talk to your doctor about nutritional supplements designed to increase sexual intimacy.
Lifestyle approaches to improve sex drive
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that women between the ages of 40 and 65 who place greater importance on sex are more likely to have an active sexual life as they grow older. In addition to supplements that drive desire, it may also be beneficial to keep your body healthy and address those other stressors that create the obstacles to a healthy, satisfying sex life. With a little attention on your intimate wellness, you might not feel compelled to avoid sex.
Other things you might consider trying:
- Working out and staying active to promote good circulation to the genital area and elevate your mood
- Quitting smoking to improve blood flow to and lubrication in the sexual organs
- Getting enough sleep to improve your overall mood and energy levels
- Managing a healthy weight to benefit your cardiovascular health and help to give you a positive body image
If you feel that your emotional state is more than situational or are the result of previous negative or traumatic experiences, therapy can help you deal with thoughts about sex, self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Counseling may also help you and your partner navigate tension, build trust and connection or navigate other difficult conversations.
Above all, don’t feel alone or discouraged
While your lowering sex drive might make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed, know that many women experience it for a variety of reasons. Speaking to your partner and physician can help you determine the right paths to explore so you can feel more like you again.