Why Do Women Lose Their Sex Drive?

When your libido is low, it can be easy to forget what healthy desire is “supposed” to feel like. But what many health professionals–even your own doctor–may not be talking about is that a healthy interest in ‘intimate’ activities is an important gauge for your overall health. It’s not just about a lack of sexual attraction. 

With a healthy libido, you should feel vibrant, energetic, and have a sense of desire for both life and your partner. These feelings are closely tied to hormonal balance, emotional health, and other factors like your diet, and how you deal with stress. If your romantic interest is waning—don’t despair, you’ll learn the surprising things that can bring back your desire (and what might tank your sex drive in the first place!) 

For many of my patients, finding this balance often begins in the gut

Your sex drive is important, according to science

You can tell a lot about your hormonal health by your libido and your interest in romantic activities. This is because the hormones that regulate your desire and attraction also regulate things like sleep, digestion, and your overall mood.

So, while many people think a healthy libido is only important if you want to have a baby, your body tells us otherwise. 

Consider what the research says. For example, we know that hormones produced during arousal can help you live longer (1). They reduce stress and calm inflammation (2). 

These chemical messengers can also reduce migraine pain—some studies even recommend the big ‘O’ as a complementary option to reduce headaches! (3) Oxytocin, or the ‘love hormone’ also helps counter some of the negative effects of cortisol. 

WATCH: How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally

Stress can mess with your hormones

Your body is programmed to thrive when things are balanced. And when one hormone falls out of balance (meaning it’s too high or too low), the others are also affected. Because stress is a common problem for women, we often see hormonal imbalances begin with cortisol. 

Your adrenal glands release cortisol to help you deal with stress, but when stress becomes chronic, this chemical messenger can trigger an imbalance in other hormones, including sex hormones. This is how stress tanks sex drive for many women.

When stress hormones get stuck in the ‘on’ position, your body basically determines that a healthy libido isn’t needed, so it reroutes hormonal production toward dealing with stress rather than your romantic endeavors (4,5).

Keeping stress low is even more important nearing menopause 

Around menopause (during perimenopause), the ovaries hand over the responsibility of making  all those good hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) to the adrenal glands. But if your adrenals have been overwhelmed in the years leading up to this happening, this hand-off time may not go so well. When there’s HPA axis dysregulation, you’re a ball of stress, and the last thing you’ll want is your hubby to wink at you during a little quality time.

The nose-dive in libido from a hormonal imbalance also fuels symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. So when everyone blames menopause for these unpleasant symptoms—stress is often the culprit!

Related: Is it Perimenopause or a Thyroid Problem?

The pill depletes testosterone—and your sex drive

You probably think of testosterone as a primarily ‘male’ hormone—and you’re not wrong; however, testosterone is a crucial part of female wellness as well–albeit in a lower concentration. Testosterone is secreted from the ovaries, and it’s essential for a strong libido and a healthy mood. It also plays a big role in body composition–helping to maintain muscle, bone, and metabolic health. You can see–that’s a lot of very important jobs. 

What we’re finding now, is that hormonal birth control (or ‘the pill’) actually has a big impact on testosterone—even after you stop taking it. Women using hormonal birth control typically experience a 50% reduction in testosterone production (which is why it’s sometimes beneficial to reduce acne) (6). 

In addition, hormonal birth control increases a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This protein binds any testosterone your body does happen to make. And the result? Decreased libido. A study in the journal of sexual medicine revealed that women who were on the pill for at least 6 months had higher levels of SHBG than women who had never taken it. 

Read: How to Lose Weight with PCOS (Simple Tips You Can Start Right Now)

Poor sleep doesn’t just make you cranky

Sleep quality massively impacts your sex drive. No surprise—because your libido is dictated by hormones, a lack of sleep can really throw those hormones off. One study found that not sleeping enough can reduce the levels of hormones needed for arousal, like testosterone (7). Hormonal imbalances can also make it more difficult to get quality sleep. This creates a cycle of sleeplessness, which then affects libido. 

A study looking at the link between women’s sleep and sexual activity found that when they slept poorly the night before, they reported less sexual desire and intimate activity the following day (8). 

And it’s not just women’s romantic desire that’s affected by poor sleep. Another study found that when men limited sleep to five hours of a night for eight consecutive nights, they had a decline in testosterone that was equivalent to aging about 10 years (9). 

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There’s definitely an emotional component

A big chunk of your interest in your partner has to do with healthy hormones, it’s true, but there’s another unspoken issue concerning the nature of desire, and that’s the emotional component. So, before you start an online search for the female version of the ‘little blue pill’, let’s take a look at some psychological blocks in your romantic life. 

For example, here are some common blocks that affect women’s romantic desire on an emotional level:

  • Imbalanced household duties/chores
  • Caregiver for children or other family members
  • Feeling emotionally unsupported
  • Postpartum troubles or depression
  • Not feeling understood by your partner
  • Depression, anxiety

Related: Does Your Anxiety Get Worse at Night? (6 Steps to Better Manage)

A study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found some eye-opening differences in sexual motivations between women with low libido, and those with self-reported average desire (10).

In this study, researchers shared findings that women who have a low libido commonly report engaging in intimate activities to avoid feeling guilty for not engaging in those activities, or to just ‘get it over with’. These women also said that wanting to avoid these negative feelings restricted their romantic interest in their partner. 

But on the flip side, women who saw sex as a positive experience to feel desired or loved and accepted by a partner, reported this as a boost to their interest and arousal. Sounds simple when you put it that way.

To break that down further: if you’re focused on avoiding the negative aspects surrounding sex (or just trying to get it over with), it’s harder to focus on any of the loving, positive feelings.  And if you’re not enjoying those romantic activities with your partner, of course you’re not going to have any interest.

Some medications can reduce your romantic interest

Maca may help boost sexual desire for people taking SSRI antidepressants, which are often have reduced sex drive as a side effect. These types of medications vastly improve quality of life (and in many cases save lives), but there can also be some undesired side effects, including a reduced libido.

Among women of reproductive age taking SSRI antidepressants, 3 grams of maca a day was found to “significantly” improve libido (11).

What labs you should consider

Since a dip in sex drive can often mean an underlying hormonal imbalance, finding out where your hormone levels actually are is helpful. I recommend that most women should test their hormones about once per year, or if you feel something is “off”. Here are a few tests you should consider.


DHEA helps make other hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, but levels naturally begin to decline in your 30s. Other factors, including stress, can also lower this hormone.

*Both low and high levels of DHEA can be problematic, so before and during supplementing with oral DHEA, work with your holistic practitioner to make sure you’re on track. 

Inflammation markers like hsC-RP

C-reactive protein (CRP) measures the low-grade inflammation that can interfere with healthy hormone production (and make it harder to get in the mood). 

If you have elevated inflammatory markers, work with your integrative or functional medicine provider to get to the root cause of this inflammation. Gut health, heavy metal toxicities, mold, and other factors can all increase inflammation.

Thyroid hormones

A low or underactive thyroid is a growing problem for women, and you’ll likely feel the effects in your entire body. Low energy, feeling cold all the time, brittle hair and nails, and a low libido are just a few of the effects of thyroid hormone troubles. 

Women: These 4 Mistakes Are Tanking Your Thyroid Hormones

Getting your libido back

There are so many things that can impact your intimate desire, and while I could write a whole book about how to manage these things, there are a few basics you should have in place that really help. So here are some of the top methods for boosting libido or rediscovering that *spark* that may help you:

Contains maca for healthy hormones and libido
Restore balance with adaptogenic maca root.
  • Seeing a therapist. Remember those emotional blocks? It’s helpful to process your mental and emotional burden to gain some perspective. You can also try couples therapy to deepen the connection with your partner. 
  • Try maca root. Sometimes called “Peruvian ginseng” this adaptogen can help promote healthy hormone balance and supports a healthy libido.
  • Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep. I can’t stress how important sleep is for your overall well being. Leave devices out of the bedroom, try some blue-blocking glasses in the evening, or light stretching and deep breathing exercises before bed.  
  • Connect with your partner. Laugh, talk, relax, and share your feelings! Getting lost in the daily grind can leave both partners feeling unheard and underappreciated. Reconnecting can help boost those feel-good hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, which are excellent for boosting desire too.
  • Ask for help! Many of my patients don’t see a dip in their sex drive as a problem–especially if they’re not trying for more kids. But your romantic desire matters! A qualified holistic practitioner can have an honest and open conversation with you about topics like sexual desire.
  • Show yourself grace. We all go through hills and valleys in life, and treating yourself with patience and compassion is key. Unconditional acceptance during hard times can help you weather struggles without internalizing more stress.

Target the underlying cause with holistic medicine

If your interest in romantic activities has declined along with your libido, there’s likely an underlying cause! For women, it can be so hard to balance all the activities in a way that leaves room for a strong libido and desire for your partner. But this desire is an important gauge of your overall wellness and hormonal health.

You can optimize factors like sleep, exercise, and stress management, and add in certain adaptogens like maca root to boost libido while you work to uncover the root cause of your missing libido. Hormonal testing, meeting with a therapist, and working with a qualified integrative health provider are all great ways to reach out for assistance to get your desire for intimacy (and life!) back on track.

Join me on a deeper journey toward holistic healing, connection, and community when you add your name to this list.



  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S266649762100062X
  2. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.90718.2008
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0333102413476374
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-014-0004-2
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11474141
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22469296/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12107256/ 
  8. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/111751/jsm12858.pdf 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839/
  10. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0092623X.2019.1623356?journalCode=usmt20
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18801111/