Are you a young woman wondering about your sexual life and why you have a low sex drive?
In this post, we learn some of the common causes of low sex drive or low libido in young women. They are quite different so it's important to know which may apply to you and what you can do about them.
Whats On This Page
- What Determines Your Libido?
- Common Causes of Low Libido in Young Women
- How Can We Deal With Low Sex Drive?
What Determines Your Libido?
Your libido or sex drive may be something you take for granted.
However, a low sex drive means a reduced sexual drive or interest in sex.
A lack of interest in sex can lead to problems in a relationship - But it could also be caused by relationship problems, as we will see shortly, or it could be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
Although it's pretty common affecting up to 15% of women aged 18-44 years, it's also not a very easy problem to share with other people.
For example, I once saw a patient (let's call her Angela) who came to the clinic for a medical review.
We had a detailed chat about different things for several minutes of the consultation.
By the end, I thought we'd covered all her concerns, but she picked up her bag, turned to the door and paused.
Then she said - "Dr, can I ask you - is there any treatment for low sex drive?"
That's when I realised - this is what the visit was really all about and she's finally picked up the courage to ask - right at the end of our meeting!
I'll tell you more about what happened with Angela later on, but let's look at some features of sex drive in a woman from her late teens to her early 40s.
Features of Women's Sex Drive
A woman's sex drive can naturally go up and down depending on what is going on in her life at the time.
Your sex drive is determined by different factors:
- Hormones including Oestrogen, Testosterone, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin can affect sexual desire, attraction and attachment.
- Psychological factors like your state of mind (which could be affected by stress or other issues) and Emotions
- Social factors like being in an intimate relationship and the environment
- Culture including your personal experiences and beliefs
How could you tell or suspect you have a low sex drive?
- have no interest in any type of sexual activity
- not or hardly experience sexual fantasies or thoughts
- be worried by the lack of sexual activity or fantasies
- and of course, your partner may complain that things aren't right in the bedroom!
But how do we measure whether sex drive is low or high?
Well, we have no way of actually measuring sex drive or libido.
Therefore, some people may have what we call 'zero sex drive' and feel perfectly happy.
While others are concerned that their sex drive is a problem.
What causes concern is if there is no sexual desire when it is expected or reduced from what it used to be.
Common Causes of Low Libido in Young Women
And now, let's look at the CAUSES of low libido.
We can describe them in 4 main categories: Relationship, Physical, Psychological and Hormone-related problems.
1. Relationship Problems.
One of the first things to consider is whether your relationship is contributing to your low sex drive.
For many women, sexual intimacy naturally progresses from an emotional connection. So, let's look at the issues that could affect this:
- One: Are you happy and comfortable or fulfilled in your relationship? These elements affect you emotionally and your desire to have sex.
- Two: Issues like unresolved conflicts, trust issues between you and your partner, or constant disagreements affect your libido.
- Three: Alongside these is poor communication, becoming bored in a long-term relationship, and becoming overfamiliar with your partner.
- Poor communication can mean difficulty talking to your partner over general issues or communicating your sexual needs and preferences.
- Fourth (and finally): are you allowing other things like social media to take over the place of intimacy in your relationships?
- For example, spending a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram rather than conversing with your significant other may slowly pull down any intimate connections you once had.
2. What are some Physical causes of Low Sex Drive in young women?
- First, in this category, let's look at Sexual Problems.
- You might experience problems during sex that affect your desire subsequently. For example, painful vaginal sex is a frequent complaint that can happen because of vaginal dryness and lack of foreplay. You can learn more about other causes of painful vaginal sex here.
- Other sex-related issues are: being unable to orgasm or if you have vaginismus. In this condition, the vagina tightens involuntarily, making physical penetration difficult and painful.
- Second, in this group is Fatigue or Excessive Tiredness.
- While traditionally it's a common excuse some women use to avoid sex, there may actually be something going on. For instance, tiredness can signify some medical conditions like Anaemia, where you have low Iron counts or lack other vital nutrients.
- You may also be extremely tired from work or caring for kids and other relatives.
- Third, let's look at Medical Illnesses that can affect your sex drive. We've mentioned Anaemia already, but problems like Heart disease, including High Blood Pressure and poorly controlled Diabetes mellitus, could also be the problem.
- In addition, you may have an Underactive Thyroid, which happens when your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones.
- Although less common in young people, having Cancer can cause a lack of interest in sex.
- And finally, this can happen after major surgery, especially if it involves removing the ovaries and womb.
- Having an operation on your breasts or other parts of your genital tract may also affect your body image and cause a low sex drive.
- Fourth and related to reason #3 is Medicines or Drugs, especially prescription medicines. Many different medicines have low sexual drive or loss of libido as a side effect.
Here is a list of some common examples:
- High Blood pressure medicines or antihypertensives
- Medicines for treating Epilepsy or Seizures
- Drugs for treating some mental health problems known as antipsychotics
- Hormonal treatments like the Combined Contraceptive Pill and other types - ring/patch, the implant, injection or Progesterone only pill.
If you suspect your low sex drive may be related to your tablets, check the medication leaflet to see if it is listed as a possible side effect.
If it is, have a chat with your doctor to consider an alternative instead of abruptly stopping the drug, which could affect the treatment of that condition.
- Number Five on the physical category is your Lifestyle.
- Habits like smoking can reduce circulation, which scientists think affects arousal. We also believe that excessive alcohol use and using street drugs like Cocaine or Heroin can negatively affect your sex drive.
3. Psychological Problems are a Major Cause of Low Libido!
So far we've seen the impact of relationship and physical problems - the psychological category includes a wide range of issues such as:
- Negative body image can affect self-esteem and sexual desire.
- Feelings of stress or tension from work or other problems will affect sexual arousal.
- Next, general anxiety or anxiety about having sex could also mean you are unwilling or uninterested in having sex.
- Earlier, we had mentioned antidepressants when we talked about drugs that cause low libido, but did you know that one of the symptoms of depression is a lack of interest in sex or reduced sexual desire?
- We know many factors that can contribute to Depression. One of them is an imbalance of hormones like Serotonin and Dopamine, which may affect your libido.
So hopefully, looking at these different causes emphasises how important it is to address why you have a low sex drive and not assume the same reason applies to every woman.
4. Hormone-Related Problems.
- In this group, low sex drive can happen during your pregnancy or afterwards, depending on your type of delivery.
- During pregnancy, several different hormones like Oestrogen and Progesterone support your pregnancy, some of which could affect your sex drive.
- Some women report having increased sex drive when they are pregnant, while it's the opposite for others.
- This drop happens to be temporary for most, and sexual arousal or desire returns as they recover from labour and delivery.
- In addition to the effect of hormones, we should also consider your delivery method.
- Remember how we talked about surgery on your genitals affecting your libido?
- Well, having a C-section or even a vaginal delivery with a cut in your vagina (this is known as an episiotomy) means you need some time to recover from the procedure.
- If complications like infection develop, this can affect how quickly you recover, and sex is unlikely to be a priority! Another effect on hormones that can lead to a low sex drive is if you are breastfeeding.
- But we shouldn't blame hormones alone: having a baby as your primary focus, exhaustion from looking after them, and changes in your body after pregnancy can contribute to low libido.
- Another change in hormones that can affect your sex drive is reduced Testosterone. Yes, in addition to other sex hormones, Oestrogen and Progesterone, women also have some Testosterone which contributes to sexual desire.
- If your testosterone levels are lower than usual, your libido can be affected. This happens naturally as women age and enter menopause.
However, common medical conditions where this happens unrelated to menopause are:
- following removal of the ovaries or
- if there is a problem with the Adrenal glands.
How Can We Deal With Low Sex Drive?
As you can see, there's quite a lengthy list of reasons for why women can develop low sex drive symptoms.
But let's go back to my patient, Angela. It turns out she's been having a low sex drive for several months, affecting her marriage.
It started after she had a difficult birth when she'd developed Preeclampsia and needed a C-section.
Following that, she needed to stay on Blood pressure tablets and even when they tried to have sex, things just were not the same.
We detected her low libido symptom was caused by her blood pressure tablets and switched them to a more suitable alternative.
Last I heard from her, things in the bedroom had been moving in the right direction.
So what can you do if you need to address a low sex drive problem?
Solutions and Where To Go For Help
For some of these cases, you might be able to make changes yourself simply by paying attention to your lifestyle habits like cutting down Alcohol or smoking; and making time in your busy schedule for you and your partner to reconnect uninterrupted.
If you have persistent relationship problems, you may need couples or relationship counselling to address and help work through the issues.
In some cases, you might need to speak to your doctor as Angela did, so we can look at your medication or consider physical or psychological causes that may be responsible.
If it's a sexual problem, a sex therapist or counsellor can help explore any challenges or issues from previous experiences contributing to low libido.
That's your pretty comprehensive look at more than 15 different causes of low sex drive in a young woman!
Let me know in the comments below if anyone jumps out to you or have any questions on the subject. Stay Well!
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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