Don’t worry: We’re not going to suggest that the key to wanting sex again is a long walk on the beach, lighting scented candles, or making dinner reservations for two. A lukewarm libido could actually be caused by a very real health or behavioral issue—and all the romantic clichés in the world aren’t going to get the job done. But the good news is that there are also very real fixes to match the underlying problems. Here are 9 proven solutions to common libido-crushers.
Switch up your birth control.
Hormonal birth control can reduce the amount of testosterone in your body, which decreases your overall libido and sex drive, says sexologist and relationship expert, Carlen Costa. Talk to your gynecologist about finding a pill that won’t snuff out your libido, or consider other non-hormonal contraceptive methods, like condoms, a diaphragm, or certain types of IUDs.
Take a hard look at your priorities.
Feeling stretched too thin? Perhaps you’ve started viewing sex as just another obligation—and one that frequently gets bumped off the list. “It’s not that it isn’t important, it just doesn’t feel as important as other tasks,” explains Jennifer Foust, PhD, a sex therapist in Aventura, FL. To put sex back on your radar, you have to revisit why it deserves a place there. Recall the last satisfying sexual experience you had, she suggests, and remember what you liked about it. “Next, plan a time for sex without distractions. It’s now on your list not because you have to do it but because you want to.” (Try these 8 simple solutions that will help you prioritize sex.)
Try meditation. No, actually try it this time.
“No matter how many times our partner tells us we look sexy, we won’t believe him if we don’t believe it ourselves,” says Alexis Conason, a licensed psychologist in New York City. “When we get naked with our partner, we can become so preoccupied with our perceived flaws that we can’t focus on the pleasurable aspects of sex.” Mindfulness mediation can help with that. “When you notice negative thoughts rearing their ugly head during sex, simply notice the thoughts and then try to refocus all of your attention on the present moment,” advises Conason. “Become aware of the sounds, sights, tastes, and touches occurring during the sexual experience. Becoming present with your partner will help refocus your attention on the pleasures of sex and give your mind a break from the anxiety stemming from worrying about your thighs or belly.”
Maintain a healthy pH down there.
Could the reason you’re not up for sex lately be because your vaginal pH is off? The normal vaginal pH is particularly acidic (pH 3.6 to 4.5 in most women), which is essential for maintaining a healthy ecoystem, says Eric C. Rottenberg, MD, a board-certified urologist. A change in pH can be caused by anything from improper use of tampons and antibiotics use to lack of a healthy diet and exercise routine. And when that happens, it can lead to inflammation or infection, which in turn mean pain during sex. To prevent imbalances he suggests probiotics, “which have also been shown to be extremely helpful in maintaining a balanced vaginal flora.” Try getting them from yogurt, a pill, or a vaginal suppository. “Or try drinking cranberry juice, which has been shown to acidify the urine as well as the vagina and decrease bacteria.”
Ditch the allergy meds.
Some over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl (or cold meds that contain antihistamines) can cause vaginal dryness. If you’ve been taking any of these lately, wait for the meds to be cleared from your system to hit the sheets. If you don’t see a difference once you’re off the antihistamines, try using a water-based lubricant like Astroglide to alleviate dryness.
Get away. Literally.
“Once other more serious root causes are addressed, then it’s time to tackle environmental ones,” says Ramani Durvasula, PhD, a psychology professor at California State University. Try shaking things up and getting out of the house, where you’ve maybe become too comfortable. A few of Durvasula’s suggestions: go away for the weekend, make out in the car, go skinny dipping, flirt with each other in a bar, or enjoy an afternoon delight in a hotel near one of your offices.
Swap out your shower curtain.
Yup, you read that correctly. According to a new study led by Emily Barrett, PhD, of the University of Rochester, household products that contain phthalates—chemicals that make plastics flexible, which are also found in some fast foods and food packaging—can dampen your sex drive. Of the women tested, the ones with the highest levels of phthalates were two and a half times more likely to have low libido compared to those with the least. While exposure to one phthalate-containing product may not have much of an effect, Barrett says the levels found in the environment every day have been associated with a decreased interest in sex. Some solutions to improve your environment: eat more organic foods and fewer processed ones, and avoid buying products made from numbers 3, 6, and 7 plastics.
Take your thyroid to the doctor.
In addition to having a low sex drive, are you fatigued, experiencing muscle aches, and maybe depressed? “Although stress is the number one reason why our libidos suffer, it isn’t the only reason,” says Costa. Low sex drive could be caused by an underactive thyroid, which means your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormones. “Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to develop thyroid issues than men, and 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime.” If these symptoms sound familiar, see your doc for a workup.
Just do it already.
You still love him, you’re still happy with him, but your sexual desire is down. The truth is, waning passion just happens over time when you’re with someone for a while. So what’s the secret sauce to keep your sex life from being nonexistent? Research from the University of Toronto says that it’s to continue having sex, with motivation stemming from the knowledge that it’s important to your partner. If there’s no other reason you can think of and sex isn’t painful for you, try considering his needs and ask him to consider yours. And then, the more you have sex, the more you’ll want to have sex. Sometimes it really can be that simple.