It’s normal to have a few dips and peaks in desire, but if you’re turning down your guy on the regular, you may want to check out what’s screwing with your sex drive. “There are a number of things that can dramatically impact libido—even in women in their twenties and thirties,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at Northwestern University’s medical school.
Fortunately, researchers are working on finding a quick fix for a lacking libido. In fact, two new drugs for treating sexual dysfunction are currently in clinical trials. But while a female version of Viagra may be only a few years away, your sex life shouldn’t have to wait that long for a solution. Read on for some of the most common libido-suckers, along with tips for getting back in the mood.
Whether you’re swamped at work or juggling a million commitments at home, it’s pretty much impossible to switch gears mentally when you want to have sex. In order to get and stay aroused, you have to be receptive, says Streicher. “If you’re too stressed, you can’t get into the moment. For men, sexual activity seems to be a stress reducer, but for women it’s not. They have to deal with their stress first.”
The solution: Think about what your biggest stressors are and make a game plan for reducing them—or even just sticking a pin in them—long enough to enjoy sex, says Streicher. Little tricks like finding a post-work wind-down routine that works or even heading away to a hotel for the weekend can get you out of your head and back into a sexier mindset.
Unfortunately, the same pill that you take for more carefree sex can actually put a damper on your desire. One reason is that hormonal contraceptives can reduce the amount of free testosterone (the kind that boosts libido) in the body, which seems to affect some women more than others, says Streicher. The Pill can also take away that mid-cycle estrogen peak that precedes ovulation and makes you want to get busy, says Shari Lusskin, MD, adjunct associate professor of psychiatry, obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The solution: If your desire has been zilch since you started taking the Pill, talk to your doctor about other birth control options. “A lot of women forget about IUDs, which are phenomenal and have no impact on libido,” says Streicher. Check out other ways to get your libido back from your birth control.
You know your body’s telltale sign of arousal, so when it’s missing it can be a huge libido crusher. But lack of lubrication might have nothing to do with your sex drive and everything to do with the medications you’re taking—like birth control or antihistamines found in allergy and cold medicines. “A significant group of women that experience vaginal dryness don’t correlate it as being a medication issue,” says Streicher. “If someone out of nowhere has dryness, they can start doubting themselves and that has a huge impact on libido.”
The solution: Arm yourself with an awesome lube. Streicher suggests a good silicone-based lubricant like Wet Platinum since they’re longer-lasting and more slippery than water-based versions.
It sounds like a contradiction, but studies have found that women’s sex drives dip after being with the same partner for a while, says Lusskin. Even if your relationship is going great, it’s possible for the novelty to wear off and have an affect on your desire.
The solution: You don’t need to ditch your partner to get your desire back. Instead, make an effort to switch things up in your own relationship. Get creative with new positions, places, and even times. “Change your patterns and see if it doesn’t freshen up your sex life as well,” says Lusskin.
Depression makes many women’s libidos tank, says Lusskin. And unfortunately, most antidepressants (called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) can have the same effect, since the neurotransmitter serotonin has been shown to play a role in arousal. These drugs can interfere with sexual function on several levels, from decreasing libido to interfering with your ability to orgasm, says Lusskin.
The solution: First, talk to your doctor to see if another drug may have fewer side effects. There are also some medications that your doctor can add to counteract this effect if they’re right for you, says Lusskin.
While there’s nothing wrong with having a glass of wine before hitting the sack, too much alcohol can screw with your plans. “A small amount can sometimes relax you and decrease your inhibitions, but too much can be a depressant,” says Streicher. The next thing you know, you’re exhausted and your body isn’t as responsive to your guy’s touch.
The solution: Keep an eye on how the amount you imbibe affects your desire to have sex. Since everyone’s level is different, knowing your personal drink limit helps ensure that the night goes as planned.
The same way that stressful thoughts can interfere with your arousal, negative body perceptions can have a similar effect. “If you don’t feel sexy and you don’t feel comfortable, you’re not going to want to take your clothes off,” says Streicher.
The solution: First, let us remind you that your partner probably doesn’t even notice the bloat or cellulite that you’re fixated on—he’s so pumped to be with you that it’s a non-issue. Still feeling squeamish about hitting the sheets? Working out will increase your body confidence and your body’s production of testosterone, both of which will help get you in the mood.
If the thought of scented candles and a big, luxurious bed have you fantasizing more about snoring than having sex, you’re probably sleep-deprived. To put it simply: Your body needs sleep more than sex, so if you’re not snoozing enough then your libido shuts down, says Streicher.
The solution: First and foremost, make sure you’re getting enough shuteye. If you’re still feeling chronically tired, you may want to have your doctor do a blood test to see if anemia is the cause of your sluggishness, says Streicher. “Some women may have an iron deficiency, and the first trigger is that they don’t want to have sex.”
When sex doesn’t feel good, your desire takes a serious hit. But pelvic pain and discomfort during sex can be caused by everything from an infection or STD to endometriosis or vaginismus (a spasm of the vaginal muscles). Or it may just be that you’re not getting enough foreplay before intercourse. “Sex should always be pleasurable. If something is painful when you’re having sex, that is obviously going to cause a decrease in libido,” says Streicher.
The solution: If extra stimulation and lube aren’t doing the trick, talk to your gynecologist about the pain you’re experiencing. They can check you for certain infections and suggest medications or strategies to make things more comfortable. If problems persist, you may want to see a sexual health expert for a more specialized approach, says Streicher.