Libido And The Menstrual Cycle

Libido And The Menstrual Cycle

by Laurel Alexander

Libido refers to a person’s sex drive and varies from woman to woman, with no such thing as a “normal” sex drive. Libido is a balance of energies and encompasses physiological factors such as hormones which affect sex drive, health conditions and medication; social factors such as relationships, work and family;  and psychological factors such as stress.

PHYSICAL INFLUENCES AND LOW LIBIDO
Medications known to lower sex drive

  • Antidepressants such as Prozac.
  • Most blood pressure drugs.
  • Sedative medications like diazepam and valium.
  • Antihistamines (also affects lubrication).
  • Antipsychotic, anti-seizure, anti-cancer, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • The oral contraceptive can be liberating for the libido however the ovulation sexual peak is skipped due to the drug and just before your period the pill elevates your levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, which attaches itself to testosterone (responsible for your sex drive) in your body and reduces its effect.

Physical conditions which decrease sex drive
Nutrient deficiencies and chronic dieting can cause hormonal imbalance, with low fat diets in particular lowering the healthy cholesterol and lipids needed to make the testosterone required for a good libido. Being very underweight can cause disruptions in hormonal levels.  Unhealthy cholesterol can build up on artery walls including those to the pelvic area and when blood flow to the pelvic area is restricted, there can be less sensation in the genitals making sex less satisfying.
Other physical conditions which may lower libido include:

  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Hysterectomy involving removal of the ovaries (causes low testosterone).
  • Low levels of testosterone in general.
  • Pain due to a health condition or physical injury.
  • Discomfort due to thinning, tightening, dryness, and atrophy (a decrease in muscle mass) in the vulva and vagina as estrogen lessens.
  • Anaemia (produces low energy).
  • Prolactin, the hormone responsible for lactation can decrease your body’s production of estrogen and testosterone (may lead to vaginal dryness). Â
  • Fatigue due to hot flushes at night, overwork, insomnia or family demands.
  • Alcohol abuse.

Recreational drugs
Smoking marijuana has a depressant effect on the body decreasing libido and decreasing lubrication. Amphetamines such as speed are known to cause sexual dysfunction while opiates e.g. cocaine is linked with the inability to orgasm, low libido and less lubrication.

TIPS: Consult with a healthcare professional who can treat potential underlying physiological causes of low libido. If you are prescribed medication, clarify possible sexual side effects.
Herbs which might help raise libido include: Siberian ginseng, gingko biloba, damiana or dong quai, (always consult a qualified herbalist before taking).
Use a water-based lubricant for vaginal dryness.

 

TESTOSTERONE, THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE AND YOUR LIBIDO

Testosterone production in women takes place in both the ovaries and adrenal glands and is fundamental to your sex drive because it influences the cycle of sex e.g. interest, arousal, lubrication and orgasm.

Here’s a journey through your sexual month from a hormone perspective:

Day 1-7: Period starts and you feel increasingly sexual due to rising testosterone.
Day 8-14: Your rampant time, with testosterone peaking around day 13. Your body is getting ready to release another egg, so it is also your most fertile time as estrogen levels start to rise.
Day 15–21: In the week following ovulation, progesterone levels increase possibly resulting in few orgasms and testosterone decreases, reducing sex drive.
Day 21-28: Estrogen levels decline as your period approaches. You may have less natural lubrication. Testosterone lowers. Progesterone levels take over.

 

Under stress, progesterone, the precursor molecule to testosterone, is converted into stress hormones instead of sex hormones. Over time, this switchover due to chronic stress may result in lower testosterone and reduced libido.

PSYCHOLOGICAL INFLUENCES AND LOW LIBIDO

Repressed anger towards your partner can be one of the biggest causes of low libido.

Perfectionism places pressure on sex drive. If you’re a perfectionist, you may think you and your partner need to look, smell  and taste perfect, that the environment must be perfect and that the “performance” must be perfect. Striving for perfection causes stress and takes the mind and body of enjoying sex.

Body image can be a self-esteem issue which in turn affects libido. To what extent do you internalise messages and images from the media of skinny bodies, youth, cosmetically enhanced beauty and gym-sleek females? Sexual identity comes from your sense of attractiveness to others and as your body changes,  you might compare your appearance to how you looked in the past, or to other women. Remind yourself that it is how you evolve inwardly that creates your sexual confidence which then shines through to the expression of your libido.

The body interprets stress as life threatening, so survival is prioritized ahead of pleasure e.g. sex. Stress impacts the adrenal glands overwhelming the chemicals used to make estrogens and testosterone, both vital to libido. If you’re under constant stress, you’re not going to feel much like having sex.

TIP: Courses in assertiveness and stress management can help you acquire tools to deal with the daily stressors that can dampen sexual desire.

 

RELATIONSHIPS AND LOW LIBIDO

Relationship problems and difficulties in communication can have a detrimental influence on your sex drive. For women, the relationship itself tends to be as or more important than the sexual act. Creating and maintaining trust and intimacy helps keep sexual desire alive, so having time to connect with your partner is important.

Being in a long-term relationship
If you are in a long-term relationship, reflect on how the interaction between you has changed over the years and how this has influenced your sexual expression. If you are experiencing relationship difficulties, the sexual side of things may be challenging. What turned you on at the start of the relationship is unlikely to be the same now. How aware are you of your changing sexual needs? Is your partner aware of these changes in you?

Your partner is getting older as well. They may be experiencing physical or psychological issues that affect their libido which in turn, impacts their relationship with you. As men become older their sex drive can naturally decrease, leading you to wonder if he still desires you and making you question your own attractiveness.

Talking sex
Talking sex with a partner needs honesty and diplomacy. A male partner’s ego tends to be more tied up with sex than a woman’s is, and they may not always be as open as they could be when listening to your thoughts and feeling around the sexual act and body image. Sex isn’t just about orgasm, yours or your partner’s. There needs to be time to allow intimacy to build, so sharing your thoughts with your partner on how to bring quality rather than quantity to the art of lovemaking may be useful.

When in sexual relationship, there are three energies; your sexual relationship with yourself, your partner with themselves, and the energy created by the two of you. The more you can understand yourself, sexually and psychologically, the more confident you will be in your communication with another.

TIPS: Address relationship issues.
Turn on your body through your mind e.g. wear a certain perfume or clothing, have a massage, read erotica, sleep in the nude, watch an erotic movie or read a raunchy book.

 

CELEBRATING YOUR EVOLVING LIBIDO

Your sexuality evolves organically. What you wanted from a sexual relationship when you were in your 20s won’t be the same as in your 30s, 40s or 50s. It’s absolutely natural for your sexual needs to change and for your libido to rise and fall throughout life. Sex on top of a vibrating washing machine might have been the only way back then – however you might prefer a feather bed and a sensuous foot massage now.

As we grow older and become more life-experienced, our beliefs and emotions around sex affect how we engage with the act itself. Whatever you age, your libido is an expression of your creative life force, not always for procreation, but for the joy of expressing your sexual needs and pleasure. Have fun with it!

TIP: Understand that your self-image and sexual identity evolve throughout your life.

 

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