Sexual Desire and Menopause
Whatever happened to the love of free love? It seems that the free love generation has lost its love for lovemaking as baby boomers have crossed the threshold into the menopausal years. The loss of sex drive for women in their menopausal years is not something that is taken lightly as more women are complaining about their lost desire and want to know what to do about it.
I'm Menopausal and I Want My Sexual Desire Back!
The clinical name for it is hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) and it is a widespread issue. It isn't a new phenomena, it is probably more obvious now because women in their 50s and 60s are less shy about seeking help for it. An additional reason for the awareness of HSDD may lie in the fact that women want a fix that works as magically as Viagra has worked for men.
The problem is that men are far easier to fix than women, especially in the sexual arena. That is because a woman's sex drive is layered with many factors affecting it. The sexual desire of a woman to make love is influenced by physical issues, but is also affected greatly by emotional issues as well. If a woman is depressed, or if there is any other emotional issue in her life, her sex drive is going to be affected as well. Although emotions are often the underlying issue for loss of sex drive in younger women, women over the age of 45 are likely experiencing changes in desire associated with the aging process.
How Lack of Ovulation Affects Sexual Desire in Menopause
Dr. Steven Goldstein, professor of ob-gyn and NYU Medical Center in New York City says, "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." A natural increased desire for sex begins just prior to ovulation and lasts for several days afterwards - the time of the month when conception is likely. It's no accident. So, if a woman stops ovulating or ovulation becomes sporadic, then that regularly scheduled boost to the sex drive is gone - and it's noticeable. Add the decreased levels of estrogen that happen with menopause and it is easy to see how sex drive diminishes once ovulation stops.
Estrogen is a key hormone for women, working in the brain to keep the sexual desire alive and working in the genitals to keep it fun (increased sensation and lubrication). Without estrogen, the vaginal tissue dries and shrinks, which means that intercourse is anything but pleasurable. It is uncomfortable and can be painful - and who wants to make love when it hurts? It becomes a catch-22 because the old saying, "use it or lose it" is particularly true when it comes to menopause and sex. The less sex a woman has, the more painful it is when she does have sex.
Surprise - Testosterone May be Key to Sexual Desire During Menopause
Although estrogen levels are really important, recent research has shown that testosterone is an important factor in women's sexual desire. This male hormone is present in females in small quantities, but it doesn't take much to make sex sexy. During menopause, testosterone levels, just like all of the other sex hormone levels, drop and this spells disaster for sex drive.
Now, to make it really complicated, the use of HRT or low-dose birth control pills, while useful for managing some of the symptoms of menopause, actually rob the body of what little testosterone there is resulting in low sex drive. Taking hormone pills cause the liver to produce a protein that binds to testosterone and the result is a deficiency of the male hormone in the woman's body. In fact, this can affect a younger woman's sex drive also - but she can just get a different prescription. By adding tiny increments of testosterone back into a menopausal woman's body, it seems possible to enhance sex drive. However, not all doctors are convinced of the value of adding testosterone back into a menopausal woman's body. A patch has been designed to do just that but it is pending FDA approval based on the need for more safety tests.
Nevertheless, many doctors prescribe testosterone "off label", which means even though it is not approved, as well as drugs like Estratest, a combination estrogen-testosterone prescription that is approved for the treatment of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. However, if taking estrogen is problematic, then this drug should not be taken.
Baby Boomers Want Answers for Lack of Sexual Desire During Menopause
This generation of baby boomers is savvy and demanding. In light of this, they will be pressing the medical community to come up with some good answers and better products to address their sexual desire concerns.
Menopause is a time in life when things really do change. A woman can experience any number of symptoms, ranging from low libido to mood swings and memory loss. Read more about menopause here.