Aging & Menopause

Ask Sofia: Low Libido and Vaginal Dryness

At some point, most women have faced a health issue that they don’t feel comfortable discussing with friends or even doctors. They might be embarrassed or just unsure if it’s something that can even be treated. Here are a few recent questions we received from readers about their health concerns and some information that can help them—and you—feel more confident when discussing issues with your doctor.

What can I do about my low sex drive? I’m just not in the mood.
A woman’s libido is based on many components that affect intimacy. Which means low sex drive isn’t always about the sex. Often a woman’s physical health, mental well-being, experiences, lifestyle, and current relationship affect her libido.
Physical causes for low libido could be sexual problems, such as experiencing pain during intercourse or being unable to orgasm, or an underlying medical issue, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or something else. Medications, alcohol, and drugs can all affect libido as well. Fatigue is another common libido killer and one commonly faced by caregivers—whether you’re a new parent or tending aging parents. Hormone levels may also alter your sex drive. If you’re menopausal, pregnant, or breast feeding, you may notice a waning sexual desire.
Problems in your relationship could also be a factor in your decreased interest in sex. If you and your partner have unresolved conflicts, lack of connection, or have experienced a breach of trust, such as infidelity, it may be difficult to feel intimate. There are also psychological issues that may cause low sex drive, including mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety; stress; low self-esteem; poor body image; or a history of abuse.
You may feel embarrassed to talk about low libido with your doctor, but it is perfectly appropriate. Your sexual health is an integral part of your overall health and well-being, and your doctor can help assess why your libido isn’t as high as you’d prefer.

I’m experiencing uncomfortable vaginal dryness, but I’m not sure why.
Although vaginal dryness affects many women, they rarely bring up the topic with their doctors. It’s a common problem in menopausal women, but can occur at any age.
Reduced estrogen levels are the leading cause of vaginal dryness. Estrogen maintains normal vaginal lubrication and tissue health, providing a natural defense against infections. When estrogen levels decrease, your defense does also, leading to a more fragile vaginal lining and increase risk of vaginal and urinary tract infection. Estrogen levels may fall due to menopause, childbirth, breast feeding, cancer therapy, removal of ovaries, immune disorders, or smoking.
Another cause of vaginal dryness is medications. Allergy and cold medicines are notorious for decreasing moisture in your entire body—even your vagina. And you may not suspect that douching would create dryness, but it disrupts the normal chemical balance in your vagina, which may lead to an itchy and dry condition known as vaginitis.
Don’t hesitate to bring up vaginal dryness with your doctor—especially if it’s affecting your lifestyle and the way you feel. After evaluating your particular situation, your doctor can recommend what’s best for you.

Ask Sofia: If you have a woman’s health question, share it with us! We love sharing information about common female health issues to help women get the care and answers they need to be healthy and well. Send us your question and it may be featured (anonymously) in a future newsletter.

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