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Will I Lose My Libido After Menopause?

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Updated June 05, 2014

Will I Lose My Libido After Menopause?

Women and their partners sometimes grieve when libido drops with menopause.

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Question: Will I Lose My Libido After Menopause?

Menopause gets a lot of angst-filled press, and that leaves us with the impression that everyone suffers, so we’d better brace ourselves for the worst. Low libido –- before, during, and after menopause -- is one of those worry-fraught aspects of getting older that is, well, complicated. And not only is it complicated, it has some pretty high stakes –- namely, your relationship with your partner. Both women and the men who love them talk about how difficult it can be when one has a higher libido than the other. It can be a source of friction and a source of sadness, for one or both.

Answer: There are many things that affect libido. It is an alchemy of hormones, circumstance, and psychology –- all combining to a low or high level of desire at any given moment. And the research, frankly, is only just beginning to sort out the causes and influences of sexual desire during this time of life. Depending on the perceived cause of low libido, treatment options can range from testosterone patches to psychotherapy.

What Do We Know?

We know that hormones play a role in libido, and that during and after menopause some women experience a drop in sexual desire. We also know that those who do experience this drop may also be more likely to suffer from vasomotor symptoms (like night sweats), depression and insomnia. We know that women who undergo surgical menopause (after having their ovaries removed) are more likely than other women to notice a lower libido, and we know that testosterone patches and medications like Viagra are not as successful in women as they are in men in treating this change.

But we also know that post-menopausal women respond to sexual cues similarly to pre-menopausal women, and are more likely than pre-menopausal women to respond to love and emotional bonding cues from their partners. So not only can they respond sexually, they do respond sexually, much as they did before menopause.

Who Is Most Likely To Have a Drop in Libido?

We need to remember that for many women menopause does not mean a loss of sexual response. That said, there are some risk factors that make it more likely that you will experience a drop in sexual desire. They include:

  • Women who have a history of sexual desire disorders.

  • Women who have had a surgical menopause because their ovaries were surgically removed

  • Women who are experiencing other menopause symptoms such as night sweats, depression and/or insomnia

Researchers are still exploring the connections between the hormone changes of menopause and the effect of those changes on libido. Every woman will have her own unique set of responses to menopause. And while hormone shifts account for some of the experience, life circumstance, expectations and other factors are big players as well.

Bottom line: If you are noticing a drop in libido and it’s distressing to you, talk to your medical provider. Explore the possible reasons this may be true, and discuss all the possible treatments. You owe it to yourself and your relationship to have the quality of sexual and relationship experience that fits for you.

Sources:

Blackwell Publishing. “Pre- And Post-menopausal Women Equally Responsive To Most Sexual Desire Cues, According To Study.”ScienceDaily 28 May 2007. 7 September 2008. Mattar CN, Chong YS, Su LL, Agarwal AA, Wong PC, Choolani M. ”Care of Women in Menopause: Sexual Function, Dysfunction and Therapeutic Modalities”Ann Acad Med, Singapore. 2008 Mar;37(3):215-23. Retrieved 7 September 2008.

Reed, SD, Newton, KM, LaCroix, AZ, Grothaus, LC, and Kelly Ehrlich, K. “Night sweats, sleep disturbance, and depression associated with diminished libido in late menopausal transition and early postmenopause: Baseline data from the Herbal Alternatives for Menopause Trial (HALT),” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007 June; 196(6): 593.e1–593.e7. Abstract retrieved 6 September, 2008.

Shifren JL, Avis NE, “Surgical menopause: effects on psychological well-being and sexuality.” Menopause. 2007 May-Jun;14(3 Pt 2):586-91Abstract retrieved 7 September, 2008.

West SL, D'Aloisio AA, Agans RP, Kalsbeek WD, Borisov NN, Thorp JM. “Prevalence of low sexual desire and hypoactive sexual desire disorder in a nationally representative sample of US women.” Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jul 14;168(13):1441-9 Abstract retrieved 7 September, 2008.

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