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Reclaiming Your Lost Libido

Uncovering the Sex Squelchers

You have to investigate a bit. Start by asking yourself what symptoms you have related to fantasies, arousal, vaginal dryness, genital sensation, and orgasm. When did the libido problems begin? Were these problems sudden or gradual? What else was going on in your life when your interest in sex took a nosedive?

Here are the leading libido killers:

  • Post-childbirth and breastfeeding. Desire can wane for a number of reasons, says Kellogg-Spadt. After childbirth, a woman is exhausted and sleep-deprived. What's more, pelvic nerves and muscles may have been damaged during delivery, which lowers genital sensitivity. Moreover, breastfeeding lowers levels of estradial — the hormone responsible for keeping the urogenital tract lubricated and supple. This can make penetration painful. Breastfeeding also raises the prolactin hormone, which suppresses sexual desire and lowers testosterone — the hormone in both genders that stokes desire. If you are breastfeeding for one year, not having sex can become a way of life.
  • The onset of menopause. The output of estradial is reduced with natural or surgical menopause (removal of ovaries, via hysterectomy) To compound matters, testosterone production drops by up to half. This may trigger a sudden dip in sex drive, loss of pubic hair, diminished sensitivity in the clitoris and nipples and a weakened ability to climax.
  • Antidepressants and other drugs. Low libido — and impaired orgasm — is a notorious side effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,(SSRIs), most notably Prozac or Paxil, two of the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat depression. Other culprits include birth control pills, blood-pressure lowering drugs, and in some cases, estrogen replacement.
  • Stress. Juggling job/childcare, marital problems, a death in the family, change of location — all can overload the adrenal hormones, deplete energy, jump start an over-secretion of prolactin and may lead to depression — a major contributor to HSD. Underlying disorders. Desire can diminish if you have a thyroid deficiency, or a joint, nerve or blood flow disorder, or from pain-causing urogenital problems such as fibroids, endometriosis, yeast and bladder infections, vulvodynia or inflammation.
  • Couple problems. A sex shutdown in women often stems from power struggles, resentment over unequal distribution of household chores, feelings of inattention, or anger about past injustices, according to Kellogg-Spadt. "Anger is often a leading — if not the leading — sex suppressor," she says. In Brenda's case, control was an issue. "I sexually pursued my husband before marriage, but when I had to share the sexual control, my desire disappeared," she notes.
  • Other issues. Feeling bad about gaining weight or having small breasts can kill lust. "The bombardment of sexual images has raised the bar on what it means to be sexy. The message is we must have a perfect body and very frequent intercourse. It's especially hard to live up to these standards as you age," says Kellogg-Spadt.