Lots of things can cause your interest in sex – your libido – to fluctuate. Anything from your hormone levels and general health to the state of your relationship and the amount of stress in your life can affect how you feel. In fact, it’s impossible to say what’s normal, or suggest how often we should be having sex.
All that matters is whether you and your partner are content with your sex life. Having a persistently low sex drive is only a problem if it upsets either of you. If you are worried, it can feel difficult to ask for help, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed because it’s a very common problem and there’s plenty you can do to improve the situation.
Try to work out what might be affecting your libido. Many things help to make us feel ‘in the mood’ and it can be quite difficult to identify what might be missing. Simple reasons such as always staggering into bed exhausted at the end of a long day, or family members sleeping just the other side of a thin partition wall can wipe out any sense of passion. Feeling stressed and changes in your relationship could also affect how you feel. Make a note of the occasions when you do feel like having sex and how it tends to happen or why it doesn’t happen.
While you are thinking about all this, make an appointment to see your GP. They will help you check for common blocks to libido, from a lack of general fitness, low energy levels and mood disorders (depression can really affect your sex life) to possible underlying illness, or even your medication.
Interest in sex typically changes with the menopause. For many, the low levels of female hormones and also testosterone, which plays a part in female sex drive, can make low libido worse. Add to that other complications of the menopause such as lack of sleep, low mood and vaginal dryness, which may make sex painful. These things can all affect how you feel about sex. Speak to your GP if you feel your sex life has been disrupted by the menopause, because there’s lots they can do to help.
Try to factor in some relaxation time to help you wind down from stress and spend time talking to your partner. Regular exercise will help your feel better about your body and lift your mood – exercising together could have added benefits. Relationship counselling, particularly if it gets you and your partner talking, may make a big difference.
Unfortunately there isn’t yet a female equivalent of Viagra, but there is a lot of research looking for a drug which will improve female libido. Meanwhile just making a start by spending more time relaxing together may help turn the corner.
Q. I’ve heard that probiotic supplements are good for me – is that true?
Dr Trisha says: Probiotic supplements contain millions of friendly bacteria, which are often recommended as a way to boost the immune system. Research is still limited, but they do seem to help keep the bowel working regularly, and may reduce symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
They could also help prevent gastroenteritis, especially when travelling abroad for example, and restore the gut back to normal after an infection. Probiotics have a similar benefit after a course of antibiotics (which wipe out our good bacteria as well as ones causing infection).
Research is now looking at whether they can help prevent cancer of the colon and bladder, rheumatoid arthritis and even diabetes. I’d say they’re definitely a great idea if you’re travelling and in general they are unlikely to do any harm – so it could be argued we should all take them.
- Dr Trisha writes a column every fortnight in Yours magazine. Ask Dr Trisha about your health problems by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.