Trudy Hannington, a psychosexual therapist at the Leger Clinic, says: “Loss of libido is common during menopause, affecting 20-40 per cent of women. It can be one of the most difficult symptoms to manage. This is often because the woman doesn’t understand why it’s is happening and what to do about it.”
Loss of libido is a complex phenomenon with psychological, relational, physical, and hormonal dimensions, as unique as the women who experience them. It is chiefly characterised by a lack of interest or desire for sexual activity. Many women with loss of libido find that they are less in touch with their sexuality. Sexual feelings and desires come less frequently, and energy for sex drastically dwindles or disappears from a woman's life. “Loss of libido can be distinguished from the inability to become sexually aroused or achieve orgasm,” says Hannington, “although women may experience these symptoms at the menopause. Loss of libido may also be linked with vaginal dryness and irritation.”
As for other menopausal symptoms, hormone imbalance is the main medically identifiable cause of lack of libido. “A change in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can reduce a woman’s desire for sex,” explains Hannington.
Oestrogen plays a vital role in female sexuality by increasing sensations, assisting in the production of vaginal lubrication, and maintaining the health of vaginal tissue. Progesterone is also important for maintaining sexual health. “When levels become too low during menopause, the resulting irregular periods, fatigue, and other menopause symptoms can cause loss of libido,” says Hannington. “Women also produce testosterone, levels of which drop at the time of the menopause, also causing a loss of libido.”
How long will a decrease in libido last?
This is difficult to say. It may last as long as menopausal symptoms last, but may last longer, says Hannington. “Tiredness, stress and a general lack of time all play a big part in having not only the energy to be sexual but the time to be sexual too,” she says. “It’s important to explore not only the physical symptoms but also the psychological issues.” Hannington believes understanding what is happening inside and outside the body may help improve your libido.
It can feel very embarrassing for many women to talk to others, including their GP, about this taboo subject. “As sexual difficulties are very common in menopause, GPs will be used to being asked for help,” stresses Hannington.
“Most GP practices often have one GP with a special interest in this area, or you could speak to the nurse. Some localities have specialist menopause clinics and you can find these listed on menopausematters.co.uk.”
Hannington suggests you print off information from this well-respected website, and take it with you to your GP to make the discussion a little easier.
What can you do about loss of libido?
You may want to consider HRT and or testosterone but it is important to discuss this with a doctor who can help you choose the best option for you.
Hannington suggests a few ideas for you to consider:
- BOOK A ‘DATE NIGHT’: Use the time to get know each other again and discuss what makes you both feel good. Switch off phones and other electronic devices so that you can give each other your full attention.
- BE TOUCHY: Improving foreplay and taking time with sensual massage can help improve communication. Kissing, touching and exploring each other’s bodies can help to boost libido.
- TRY HERBAL REMEDIES: Scientific research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and the journal Phytotherapy Research, has shown that Rhodiola rosea extract (WS®1375), a herb used for centuries to relieve stress and boost energy, can also help boost low sex drive. Available on the high street in the form of Vitano® Rhodiola tablets, it is a natural herbal supplement which can help with the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress such as fatigue, exhaustion, and low sex drive, and has been used for over 30 years as a traditional remedy. Rhodiola rosea was used by the Vikings and given as a wedding gift to couples in Siberia. Taking 200mg, twice a day could help to control the release of stress hormones while helping to improve energy and libido levels. Vitano® Rhodiola tablets are available from Boots and Holland & Barrett stores nationwide at £6.99 for 16 tablets. For more information visit www.vitano.co.uk
- Traditional herbal medicines containing Black Cohosh and St John’s Wort have been clinically proven to help relieve common menopause symptoms, and it’s the menopause and its associated symptoms that affect your libido.
 Edwards D Et al. J Sex Med 2016;13(Suppl. 2): S158;
Edwards D et al. Phytother Res 2012; 26:1220–5