On top of all the other symptoms that I was experiencing including headaches, fatigue, anxiety and joint pain, I also noticed that I seemed to be losing my libido.
Even the thought of sharing a bed with my partner made me feel physically ill let alone having intercourse. That was very unusual for me as I have quite a high sex drive. I kept putting it off and off and off until it got to the point where I actually lied to my partner and told him that I had cystitis. I even went to the pharmacy and bought the medications just to avoid having sex!
I was exhausted physically and mentally and the last thing I wanted to do was be intimate.
By that point, I had stopped drinking for more than a year and so I couldn’t rely on the crutch of alcohol to see me through the motions. Drink can make you feel more relaxed, even liberated but I wasn’t going to start drinking again just for the sake of sex. I had no idea what was happening to me and the lack of intimacy was really having a negative effect on my relationship with my partner. I was exhausted physically and mentally and the last thing I wanted to do was be intimate. The whole situation was adding to the cycle of anxiety that I had become caught up in.
I went to visit my GP and told him about how I’d been feeling. I might as well have been speaking in a different language as he didn’t really seem to understand what I was going through. He gave me a course of anti-depressants and sent me on my way. I remember thinking that it didn’t feel right but I took the tablets anyway. A fortnight later and I had noticed no improvement in my physical or mental state.
By chance, I came across an article online linking anxiety to the menopause. So I went back to my GP and told him that I’d also been experiencing sore joints, headaches, tender breasts and feelings of nausea too. My GP then said that there was a possibility that I was going through the menopause. I was shocked as I had never associated any of those symptoms with the menopause.
After I had seen my GP, I started researching in more depth and I realised that my falling libido was down to the fluctuating hormone levels in my body. I couldn’t quite believe that this was the root cause of how I’d been feeling!
What Causes Loss of Libido?
Falling hormone levels can affect your sex drive as well as causing your vagina to become thinner, dryer and inflamed, which can cause discomfort at any time. Estrogen plays a vital role in female sexuality by increasing sensations, assisting in the production of vaginal lubrication and maintaining the health of vaginal tissue. Testosterone is the main hormone that drives sexual desire and progesterone is key in the production of testosterone. Women also have testosterone although our levels are lower than that of men. Falling hormone levels can also cause vaginal dryness which can make sexual intercourse painful.
My Top Tips
Talk about it
Loss of libido is not a topic that many women feel comfortable talking about as there is such a shame and stigma around it. Although it won’t affect all women during the menopause – some may even sense an increase in their sex drive – it will affect approximately 1 in 3 women. Chances are, some of your close friends might be going through the same thing! Talk to your husband or partner about it too. It can be a very difficult subject to broach but communication is the key to understanding, even if it is uncomfortable at first. Once you both get past the initial awkwardness, the conversation can be very rewarding as you talk about how are you feeling and the effects your symptoms may be having on your relationship.
Take time out and treat yourself
Hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety and fatigue can make sex the last thing you have on your mind. But try taking some time out to de-stress and relax. The most important thing is not to give up on yourself or let yourself go. There’s life in you yet!
“But testosterone is only for men?!” I hear you say. Just like estrogen, testosterone is also a hormone that controls many of our functions including libido. Women have testosterone too and falling levels can cause a downturn in libido. In order to take testosterone (usual in gel-form) in the UK, you will need to be referred to a menopause clinic as it is not currently available on the NHS. Don’t worry, you won’t grow a beard! Testosterone can also kick start your energy levels and make you feel sexier.
Use a lubricant
I would recommend using a lubricant. Due to falling estrogen levels, the vaginal tissues are very sensitive so look out for a product that is pH friendly, non-drying, hormone and paraben free.
Exercise…with your partner
I know, it’s the last thing you want to do if you’re exhausted but you could try couple’s yoga as it is slow and stress-free and helps stretch you out. You could also try couple’s dancing as it increases intimacy by involving eye contact, touching and in some Latin dances, plenty of hip-action!