How Women Can Boost Their Sexual Desire

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It’s not unusual for women to experience problems with sexual desire. In fact, about 40 percent of women in the U.S. report a decline in sexual interest. For men, sexual solutions for erectile dysfunction are well known. But little is said about the options that are available to women who want to enhance or restore lost sexual interest.

“Problems with sexual desire in women are common, underdiagnosed and undertreated,” says University Hospitals psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD. “The lack of sexual interest isn’t something that ‘just happens’ with age or in relationships that a woman has to simply accept. It’s a treatable condition that should be addressed if a woman is inclined to do so.”

Causes of a Loss of Sexual Desire

A lot of factors can contribute to the loss of sexual interest. In a long-term relationship, excitement and passion tend to fade over time. Work, family and schedules can interrupt. Depression, anxiety, stress, sexual guilt or relationship problems can interfere with sexual interest. And physical factors such as hormonal imbalances or changes, neurotransmitter problems, and health issues such as an illness, injury or disability can all negatively affect sex drive.

When to Seek Treatment

For some women, a loss of sexual interest is acceptable: they’re comfortable in their relationship or their stage of life without it. In this case, there’s no need for treatment.

However, if a loss of sexual interest causes personal distress, a woman should feel empowered to seek help. Medical treatments, including pharmaceuticals and cognitive behavior therapy, can help reignite the spark.

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

Maintaining romance in a relationship can help inspire and support sexual attraction, connection and communication. Small gestures of affection can help keep the connection, whether it’s hugging and holding hands, planning date nights or dressing to please your partner. In addition, staying as healthy as possible – through diet, exercise, personal care, positivity and socialization – help supports optimal sexual desire.

Pharmaceuticals for Premenopausal Women

Addyi and Vyleesi are nonhormonal medications for premenopausal women that work on neurotransmitters to improve sex drive. They are effective in about 60 percent of women.

  • Addyi is a non-hormonal pill taken every night. It works by decreasing neurotransmitters that interfere with the sex drive and increasing neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) that improve desire.
  • Vyleesi is a non-hormonal on-demand injection. Vyleesi must be injected a minimum of 45 minutes before being sexual and its effects last 16 hours. It rebalances brain chemistry, allowing the stimulation of excitement neurotransmitters while slowing down neurotransmitters that inhibit desire.

Pharmaceuticals for Postmenopausal Women

While there are no FDA-approved options for increasing desire in post-menopausal women, topical testosterone used off-label can be helpful. Testosterone in gel or pump form is adjusted to a female dose equaling one-tenth of the male dose and used topically. It is effective in about 60 percent of women.

Improving Arousal

Problems with sexual arousal can also negatively affect sexual desire. Over-the-counter lubricants and vaginal moisturizers as well as prescription hormone treatments can improve arousal and support desire.

Vaginal estrogen and DHEA are used to treat postmenopausal women who have changes in vaginal tissue due to a loss of estrogen. Vaginal estrogen comes in tablets, gel caps, rings and creams. DHEA is offered in a vaginal suppository. A pill, Osphena, is a non-hormonal treatment known as a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator). Available by prescription only, vaginal estrogen, vaginal DHEA and Osphena help restore vaginal tissue that has become thinner and dryer. They may also help improve sensation and natural lubrication as tissue is restored to health.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be used alone or in combination with pharmaceuticals to boost sexual interest. Cognitive behavior therapy works to change negative beliefs or thoughts about sexuality that can interfere with desire.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

When sex is good, it adds value; but when it’s bad or non-existent and causes distress, it can be extremely powerful in draining a relationship. If you experience distress, get help from a qualified medical provider with the expertise you need. Some, but not all OB/GYNs are well-educated in sexual desire treatment options. For postmenopausal care, look for a physician with NAMS (North American Menopause Society) or NCMP (Certified Menopause Practitioner) certification.

Remember, you have a right to a healthy sexual life. If your provider doesn’t ask, feel free to start the conversation – or find a provider who will discuss the variety of options with you.

Related Links

The Female Sexual Health Program at University Hospitals is dedicated to addressing all of the sexual health concerns women may have throughout their lifetime. Our primary goal is to provide a unique and open environment of care where women feel empowered, confident and comfortable discussing this important aspect of their health.

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