When desire dies: Bringing your sex drive back to life
We asked top sex experts to explain why women lose their libido and what they can do to get it back.
A loss of sexual desire in women is quite common but exactly how common is difficult to say. A 'sex census' of 24,709 British people found that at any one time about 16% of women have a low sex drive. Other surveys have reported much higher figures. For example a US survey of 32,000 women, found that 38% reported a lack of sexual desire.
Although the figures seem quite alarming, they’re just a snapshot in time. Sexual desire waxes and wanes according to life’s circumstances. You might have a high sex drive at the start of a new relationship, but a low sex drive during a period of illness, or just after you’ve had a baby. In other words, different women take turns being in that 16% or 38%.
"A loss of sexual desire can happen at any age, but it appears to become more common with ageing," says Claudine Domoney a consultant gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
However, she points out that, as women age, a fall in sexual desire becomes less distressing for them. "So, as a problem, it probably stays roughly the same throughout the ageing of women, just because of the lack of distress. You can’t call it a problem if women are not distressed or bothered by it."
In the medical profession, low sex drive is only defined as a sexual dysfunction if the person feels "significant distress" and the problem has lasted for at least 6 months.
When is it a problem?
Denise Knowles, a sex therapist at relationship charity Relate, says if both partners in a relationship have equally matched low sex drive (or no sex drive), then it’s unlikely to cause any relationship problems or emotional distress.
"But more often than not, that’s not the case," says Denise. "If one of the partners doesn’t want sex, then the other partner can start to feel very suspicious and isolated, and that can drive a wedge between the couple."
The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found that 1 in 4 women who are in a relationship don’t share the same level of interest in sex as their partner. The figure is the same for men.
If your sex drive has taken a plummet, it may be worth looking into the potential causes. Sometimes a GP or gynaecologist can identify the root of the problem with a blood test, a pelvic examination, or a review of your prescription medications. Or, if the problem is less physical and more psychological, a cognitive behavioural therapist or sex therapist can help.
Most hormones have an impact on sexual feeling and sexual behaviour, so it’s one of the areas doctors will investigate if you’ve had an unexpected loss of libido.