Have you had a noticeable drop in how much you think about having sex? Is your diminished sex drive negatively impacting your relationship or tanking your self-confidence? You may be dealing with low libido, which is far more common than you think!
Instead of suffering in silence, talking about low libido in women (specifically those born with female genitals) can help reduce stigma and create meaningful solutions to get your sex life — and the rest of your life — back on track.
What Is Libido?
Libido is another term for “sex drive” — how much you want to have sex. Interestingly enough, your libido may or may not be tied to how much you are having sex (or masturbating). Libido is more about how much desire you have to follow through with any sexual activity.
Is There a “Normal” Level of Libido?
Just like fingerprints, everyone’s sex drive is going to be unique. There isn’t a specific number of times that you should be thinking about having sex to be “normal.” Some people with vulvas may think about sex multiple times a day, and it’s unusual for them to go more than a day or two without masturbating or having sex.
Others are perfectly fine with having sex a few times a month and rarely masturbate. The amount doesn’t matter; what matters is any deviation away from whatever your baseline is.
As a quick side note, low sex drive can also be classified as a medical condition — hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Healthcare providers believe that HSDD affects up to one-third of AFAB people in the United States.
People with HSDD report little to no sexual interest or sexual thoughts and avoidance of sexual situations with their partner. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on finding medicinal treatments for female sexual dysfunction, we’ll focus on ways to alter your lifestyle to find some relief (and get horny again!).
Libido by Anatomy
There are plenty of untrue myths about the differences in libido between the sexes. Many of them come back to sexist stereotypes, and the “boys will be boys” mentality, which isn’t beneficial for anyone!
Looking at libido from a scientific perspective, the main difference between the sexes is their natural testosterone levels. People assigned male at birth or taking testosterone as part of their hormone replacement therapy also tend to have higher libidos, as testosterone is one of the hormones most directly related to sexual desire.
What Causes Low Libido in Women?
So, what causes low libido in people with vulvas? A variety of physical, emotional, and social factors can influence how much you want to mess around, and most people deal with a combination of factors.
Do any of these sound like you? Don’t worry — we’re not going to leave you high and dry; after we talk about what may cause a loss of libido, we’ll talk about ways you can help improve it.
We briefly touched on how testosterone can impact everyone’s sex drive, but other hormones more specific to women with vulvas also play a significant role.
Estrogen, in particular, is key. Low levels of estrogen can also mean low libido. Unfortunately, estrogen levels may drop during certain times — most significantly during menopause. However, birth control, breastfeeding, certain contraception techniques, and pregnancy can also cause shifts in how much estrogen you have in your body.
One of the most significant sexual side effects of low estrogen is a loss of vaginal lubrication, leading to issues with vaginal dryness. Many postmenopausal people can feel mentally and physically aroused but won’t get wet enough to make sex fun or comfortable.
Luckily, there are ways to work around that issue, like a good lube, so you can continue having sex for as long as you want. Low estrogen can also lower the circulation and blood flow to your vaginal area.
Every part of our body needs blood to work well because it’s the blood that carries oxygen to the tissue! Without as much blood flow, the delicate tissue inside the vaginal can start to thin out, causing pain with intercourse — which isn’t usually a turn-on (for most people, that is. No kink-shaming!).
If you’re not feeling great about your body or don’t feel like you have the experience to be “good in bed,” you may experience a drop in libido due to sexual anxiety.
Body image issues are everywhere, and there isn’t enough time to get into just how unfair the “norm” is that most of us feel we must measure ourselves against. Self-esteem can impact every single part of our lives, especially when we’re naked and have nothing to hide behind.
Sexual anxiety can also come from concern about performance-related issues. If you’ve been struggling to get aroused, stay wet, or have an orgasm, it’s easy to get in your head about what your partner may think or how they might be judging you (spoiler alert — in most cases, they do not think that at all!).
Are you having trouble in your relationship? Are things feeling tense around the house? Relationship issues are one of the biggest causes of low libido in AFAB people! You may find your partner incredibly physically attractive, but not feeling as emotionally connected to your partner can often override those feelings.
It comes down to the importance of the mind-body connection, especially regarding sexual function. Did you know that there have even been cases of women who could reach orgasm without any genital stimulation at all?
There’s an old saying that the brain is the body’s largest erogenous zone, which isn’t far from the truth! If your mind is elsewhere, or you’re still holding onto some hurt in your relationship, it can also impact how your body responds.
We all experience stress from time to time; it’s a normal part of life. Some stress is good for you and can be motivational, helping push you forward. Most stress, however, is the type that tends to put your body into fight-or-flight mode, triggering the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
Over time, these hormones can take a toll on your physical and mental health, including contributing to sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, some of the medications we take for stress (especially certain antidepressants like SSRIs) can also have the unwelcome side effect of a lower sex drive.
It’s all about finding that delicate balance — which is best done with the help of your women’s health care provider.
How Can You Naturally Raise Libido?
Instead of just dealing with a drop in your sex drive, do something about it! We have a few suggestions for naturally improving low sexual desire. However, taking a trip to your gynecologist to discuss new symptoms and potential treatment options is never a bad idea.
Having someone tells you to relax works every time, right? We know it’s easier said than done, but hear us out. If you can feel your blood pressure rising every time you even think about having sex, relaxation techniques can greatly help get your head in the right place.
One of our favorites is known as the 4-7-8 technique. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, find a quiet place. Close your mouth, rest the tip of your tongue on the backside of your upper front teeth, and slowly breathe through your nose for a count of four.
Hold your breath for seven seconds, then open your lips slightly and exhale with a “whooshing” noise for eight seconds. This may take some practice to feel comfortable with, but it’s an excellent way to calm your nerves!
Relaxing during sex should also include a conversation with your partner (we know — vulnerability isn’t super relaxing at first, but trust us). If your partner doesn’t know what’s happening in your head, they may interpret your lack of sexual interest as something they did wrong.
Unless that’s actually the case, opening up about how you’re feeling and what they can do to help can make sex better and bring you closer together. Everyone wins.
Give It Time
Unfortunately, although certain medications claim otherwise, improving low libido in people with vulvas takes time. You can’t magically pop a pill and suddenly — bam — sex life restored!
If you want to fix your sexual problems, you have to dedicate some time and attention. One of the best ways to do this is by talking to your partner about taking it slow. That may sound backward but trust us here.
When was the last time you took the time to enjoy being intimate with your partner? How long does foreplay usually last (if you have it at all)? We can get so caught up in fitting sex into our lives that we don’t give it the focus it needs to be pleasurable — it’s more function over experience.
Spending more time exploring each other's bodies, especially through foreplay, can get your physical and mental excitement level where it needs to be to start to desire sex more. After all, if you’re having orgasms more regularly, why wouldn’t you want to prioritize sex?
In addition to finding ways to help your mind relax, it’s also helpful to remove any stressors that may impair your ability to want sex. Certain lifestyle changes help you prioritize yourself and set aside time for getting intimate without interruption. Never discount the power of foreplay and taking your time!
Outside stressors can also impact what happens in the bedroom. If your job or family life is causing you excessive stress, consider what you can do to minimize it. Stress is part of our everyday life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to reduce its impact.
Think of it this way — would you let your boss walk up to you and tell you that you’re not allowed to have an orgasm? Probably not (because that would be super illegal). Don’t let them have that unconscious impact, either.
Have Some “Me” Time
If you’re not taking time out for yourself regularly, take a moment to consider why not! Do you feel like you’re not worth it? Do you not have time?
No matter the excuses you make for not putting yourself on the list, we urge you to reevaluate. Self-care is not just important; it’s non-negotiable if you want to maintain your mental health.
Also, don’t listen to social media — self-care can look any way you want it to look! Some people like to call in sick to work and spend all day in their pajamas watching their comfort show, while others prefer to head to the day spa and get a mani-pedi. There’s no wrong answer as long as you’re putting yourself first for once (we see you).
When it comes to helping improve low libido in people with vulvas, your “me” time should regularly include orgasms. Treat yourself to new sex toys and see if the novelty can interest you again.
Remind yourself that you’re a sexual being worthy of pleasure — and you don’t need a partner to experience that! Once you’ve gotten your groove back, you can take that knowledge into the bedroom and show your partner.
The Bottom Line
Low libido in women is something most of us will deal with at some point, whether due to changes in hormone levels, poor body image, relationship issues, or stress. However, like any other health condition, you don’t have to just “deal with it.”
Sexual health is just as important as any other aspect of your health and well-being, and we’re here to help!
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