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Why your sex drive could be low – and what to do about it

Losing interest in sex is common from time to time, but a persistent low sex drive can become a cause for concern – especially if it’s affecting your relationship.

Though there are many reasons behind a low libido, there is less information about what you can do to increase your sex drive, if that is what you want.

Stress is one of the main causes of a low sex drive, whether that is work-related, financial worries, or something else altogether.

Additionally, things like poor body image can affect your self-esteem, which may make you feel less attractive and therefore be uninterested in sex, as well as previous negative sexual experiences or abuse which can lead to traumatic memories associated with sex.

Certain types of medication can affect sex drive, particularly anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, or any kind of benzodiazepines and beta-blockers, birth control pills and also opioids.

As oral contraceptives have hormones in them, it can either decrease or increase your sex drive depending on the person, despite being one of the most effective ways of preventing pregnancy.

Narendra Pisal, a consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaeocology, says: ‘Contraception is known to affect sex drive, but the effect is variable and the available evidence is equivocal.’

Maintenance sex - how to navigate the sexist idea when you and your partner have different drivesPicture: Getty
(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘There are some studies which have shown reduced sexual desire due to the lowering of testosterone levels,’ she says.

Most of us are aware that using contraception is necessary to prevent pregnancy, and while there are other options available if hormonal birth control is not working for you and your sex drive, Pisal also suggests that ‘condoms can also affect sexual desire due to fear of pregnancy (if it breaks) and also having to stop to put it on.’

While there are ways of changing up your birth control or medication when it is affecting your sex drive by yourself, Pisal recommends talking ‘to a women’s health expert in your GP practice and they may be able to give you advice’.

Marijuana, though illegal in the UK for recreational use, can also be an issue when it comes to libido. Although some people have anecdotally reported that having sex after smoking marijuana can increase the sensations of sex.

As there is not much clinical evidence about the causes of low libidos, we can only speculate as to the reasons behind it, and there is a lot of trial and error involved in trying to pinpoint why it’s happening and how to fix it.

One worry for some people is that being disinterested in sex may mean your partner could feel like you are no longer in love with them or no longer find them attractive.

This isn’t always the case at all, but having this fear can put a strain on your relationship.

Parvinder Sagoo, a superintendent pharmacist and clinician at SimplyMedsOnline explained that to counteract this problem, ‘communication is key’.

He says: ‘Talk to your partner and try to help them understand that you still love them and find them attractive even if you are lacking interest in sex.’

(Picture: Getty)

Sagoo also recommends relationship counselling if the issue is ongoing, or more generalised professional therapy to deal with the other issues in your life that are contributing to a low libido in order to ‘get to the root of the problem’.

For those who want to ensure continued intimacy and a healthy relationship with their partner, blocking out time for date nights and allowing plenty of time to engage in foreplay to increase your excitement and libido, rather than trying to fit in a ‘quickie’ before work or bed can be positive in your relationship if a decreased libido is affecting it.

‘If you find certain medication is affecting your sex drive, then you may want to try different medications or dosages to bring it back,’ Sagoo says, adding that ‘changing your lifestyle habits, eating well, drinking plenty of water, and cutting out alcohol and smoking’ will also help to increase your libido, even if its marginal.

Exercise can also be a great way of increasing your libido, as it provides endorphins which will increase your self-esteem, and make you happier and more receptive to sex.

Additionally, though low libido can be another cause for stress for you and your partner, worrying too much about it will make it snowball into an entirely separate issue and will further impact your sex drive.

So, if you are suffering from low libido, the first thing you should do is acknowledge that while there is an issue, there are many ways to improve your sex drive.

Sex is of course important to many of us, but fluctuations in sexual desire are both normal and subject to various environmental factors, and feeling like you are the problem or trying a ‘quick fix’ will not help you (or your partner) in the long run.

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