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35 Symptoms of Perimenopause: Loss of Libido

Posted Jan 11 2010 4:44am

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As if perimenopause doesn’t cause us enough grief, it has to go and snatch away our sex drive too.  It seems awfully cruel, especially if you’ve enjoyed a healthy and satisfying sex life until then.

I remember a panic setting in when I realized that my desire for sex would diminish – or at least, that’s what I was expecting.  I had heard this often happened to women during menopause and I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea either.

I am happy to report though, that it doesn’t have to be a long term and permanent condition if we do not want it to and it is not certain that it will even happen at all.  For me, it never completely went away, though it was certainly diminished somewhat. But, like most everything during menopause, sexuality and libido may require a redefinition.

Chances are, if you have had a low sex drive before perimenopause, you’re not going to suddenly develop a higher one during perimenopause. In addition, if you have had difficulties in your relationships with sex prior to perimenopause, chances are those difficulties will not only remain but perhaps even worsen. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, ladies, but these are the obvious facts. Perimenopause is not known to solve problems, unfortunately, rather it’s known to exacerbate them.

Hormonal Causes

One of the reasons for loss of libido in women during perimenopause is the dip in progesterone that is linked to ovulation.  Most women, barring any physical issues, experience a surge in sexual desire around the time of ovulation because of a rise in progesterone. I guess you could call it intelligent design at work, meant to propagate the species.

However, because ovulation is not consistent during perimenopause, then neither is our progesterone levels.  In fact, anovulatory cycles (cycles where you experience blood loss but no ovulation has actually occurred) are one of the hallmarks of perimenopause. So, it doesn’t take rocket science to make the connection: No ovulation.  No rising progesterone levels.  Diminished sexual desire and libido.

Estrogen, as one might expect, also plays a role in our sexual function. Without healthy estrogen levels, women often experience vaginal dryness, thinning of vaginal walls and atrophy. Let’s face it ladies, who wants sex when it’s painful?

Estrogen is necessary for normal sexual response and orgasm as well. So, on top of the obvious physical discomfort that can occur if women are experiencing vaginal dryness, atrophy and thinning of vaginal walls, but your ability to respond and perhaps reach orgasm is diminished as well.

Women also have a certain amount of testosterone in their hormonal make-up. Yeah, the same testosterone that men have, just not as much.  Just as testosterone plays a huge role in the sex drive of men, it plays a role in our sexual response also.  Like the estrogen and progesterone, if the testosterone is somehow rendered imbalanced, well, you know the rest of the story.

Emotional Causes

Sexual response for women is far more than a simple physical experience. If we are having a bad day emotionally, suffering with fatigue, depression or mood swings, chances are we are not going to be “in the mood”. And as we all know, perimenopause brings all of the above into our life and then some.

When you consider all of the components that make up a woman’s sexuality and how easy it can be disrupted, it’s darn near enough to make you want to throw in the towel.  But, let’s not.  If you’re not ready to give up your sex life, then don’t.  There are plenty of things you can do.

Bio Identical Hormones

One very obvious solution is to put back that which is lost and to balance what has gone totally haywire uring perimenopause -  estrogen and progesterone.  Bioidentical hormones are providing women with a healthier and more personally tailored solution to hormone health than the traditional hormonal dinosaur of Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Look, I realize that nothing totally takes the place of what your body naturally produces, but if I have to choose between impregnated mares providing estrogens for my body during perimenopause (which is where synthetic hormones come from) or a plant based estrogen that more naturally mimics my own body’s estrogens, well, then, I’m going for the latter.

The more I read and learn about bioidenticals (in spite of the fight the pharmaceutical companies are putting up) the more convinced I am they are a better alternative. And it appears I am not alone.  More and more medical doctors are taking a serious look at bioidentical hormones and realizing they are a healthier and more effective choice.

Testosterone Therapy

According to a  Mayo Clinic article, there have not been enough studies done on the benefits of testosterone therapy for perimenopausal and menopausal women for there to be a consensus among physicians as to it’s usefulness.

Though I don’t usually let the lack of consensus among physicians become my own barometer, because, well, how many physicians do you know who agree on everything?  It’s still a good idea to do your research on the safety and benefits of testosterone therapy.

Clearly, more testosterone in our bodies will have the desired effect of an increase in sexual desire and libido, but it can also bring undesired effects such as more acne, facial hair and changes in mood.  Since the last thing we want is more acne, facial hair and mood swings, well, it is something to consider.

However, there have also been studies that suggest testosterone is the missing link in hormone therapy and that women who have testosterone as a part of their “hormonal cocktail” if you will, not only tolerate any additional estrogens and progesterone during hormone therapy better, but they also experience a surge in sexual desire and overall feelings of well being as well.

Testosterone can be taken in pill form, lozenge form, patches and injections.  Again, as with everything ladies, I am simply the messenger. You need to do your own research and decide what is best for you.

Personal Lubricants

As I’ve already said, vaginal dryness and a weakening of vaginal walls due to declining estrogen levels during perimenopause is not exactly going to make for a satisfying and enjoying sexual experience.  Ouch.  In a previous post, I addressed some dietary things that you can do to help with vaginal moisture.  You can find that article here.

In addition, you can also add simple, over-the-counter personal lubricants to the list.  It’s an obvious choice and it helps.  There are plenty to choose from.  K-Y, which has long held a solid position in the personal lubricant market, has a product called, K-Y Intense Arousal Gel For Her.

I have not personally used it, but from what I’ve read, the results are good.  It not only provides much needed lubrication, but touts that it enhances orgasm as well.  Who can complain about that? Another popular choice is Durex Play Utopia Female Arousal Gel.

So, if neither of these floats your boat, you can also check a few out here at Vitamin Creek .  The link will take you to their front page.  Type in the word “lubricant” in the product search box at the top left of the page and it will bring up a variety of good brands.

Addressing the emotional & psychological Issues

As we have already discussed, sexuality is a collective experience for a women that begins in her mind and emotions and culminates in her body.  If we are stressed, fatigued, run down or emotionally taxed, chances are we are not going to be thinking about sex very much. In addition to menopause changing our bodies and attitudes toward sex, oftentimes our spouses are experiencing mid-life changes as well.

Though I do not want to say that sex is not necessary, the truth is, many couples find that they can redefine their relationship to include other types of emotional bonding and intimacy and continue to be content and happy in their relationship without sex or with less sex. If both parties are happy with the arrangement, then there is no right or wrong way to approach it.

But, certainly, if you wish to continue a healthy sexual relationship there is no reason that you cannot do that either.  It may require a little more effort to keep yourself healthy and well, but it can certainly be done.

By the time we’ve reached middle-age and menopause, most of us have figured out that we do not need to seek the approval of others for our life choices.  Our sexual health and well-being should certainly be no exception.  Decide what works for you and be well.

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