Sexuality is probably the most widely known area controlled by hormones. Our hormones allow us to behave erotically and maintain sexual relationships. They are responsible for emotional attachment, whether we feel love for someone in a sexual or platonic way.
Libido is a potential, a state of mind. It is different from sexual desire or sexual drive. Testosterone locally can stimulate testosterone receptors, which occur predominantly in the brain, nipples and clitoral area in woman, and create sexual desire. Libido is multi-factorial, with “atmosphere” including partner’s interest and romanticism playing a major part.
If our hormones are out of balance, desire is snuffed and sexual potential fades. This is what happens commonly with age. The good news is, though, that we can regain and maintain our full sexuality with individualized hormone treatments. We can rediscover our sexual desire and enhance performance.
As women, we get fulfillment from so many different things- our families, jobs, friends, spouses, and from our physical, emotional, and spiritual connections. Oh, and sex. Notice how I listed sex last- a lot of women (and some men going through andropause- yes, men have a "pause") put sex way down on their list of fun, energizing, endorphin-producing, stress-relieving activities. Why do 2/3 of women want to eat vs. having sex? Where did the simple days go when sex was less encumbered and we didn't have female sexual dysfunction or libido issues. Why does mother nature only want us to be in the mood to procreate and when we are finished with our reproductive duties she zaps our ovaries' production of hormones? Our sexuality becomes a stranger to us and we stop exploring ourselves and our needs. We meet our kids, husbands, significant others, aging parents needs first. As Pfizer recently admitted after 8 years of trying to prove Viagra cured female sexual dysfunction- our sexuality cannot be medicalized- it must be stroked and teased, coaxed and stimulated.
When I consult with women who wish to balance their hormones I always ask questions about their sex drive, satisfaction with their sex life, and the quality of their orgasm. Some are shocked that I would ask this as often sex is the last thing they are thinking about with stressors like relationship issues, teenage kids, college kids moving back home, aging parents, hormone imbalance, and demanding jobs. Most of these women however open up about their struggles to hold their lives together while feeling sexy and attractive and having enough energy to even have or enjoy sex.
Scientific understanding of female sexuality is still light- years behind research on male erections. In men, we know that blood has to rush to the penis. For a woman, chemicals in the brain must be aligned, not to mention that she has to trust who she’s with.
On the flip side, we must understand where men are coming from too. Men are thinking about sex every minute of the day, and any time his female partner ‘isn’t in the mood’ and doesn’t want to have sex, it can signal fading attraction or perhaps another man. His brain interprets her lack of desire as ‘she doesn’t love me anymore.’ It’s similar to what happens with a woman and verbal communication. If her partner stops talking to her or she thinks that he disapproves of her, she thinks he doesn’t love her anymore.
A woman’s sexuality can change dramatically in perimenopause and menopause. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as sex in this stage can be better as there is minimal pregnancy risk and the kids are out of the house-time for new exploration and discovery! It is normal and healthy for a woman to be sexually active throughout her whole life and there is much evidence that sex is good for your health.
As we know, women must be ‘put in the mood.’ Before sex commences, there has to be a soothing and smoothing out of the relationship, and she cannot be annoyed with her partner. Anger is one of the most common reasons for sexual problems. Many sex therapists will say that foreplay for women is everything that happens in the preceding 24 hours. For men, it’s everything that happens in the preceding 3 minutes! She needs a good 24 hours to get in the mood- this is why vacation can be an intense aphrodisiac. It allows her to unwind and disconnect from everyday life.
If females aren’t relaxed, comfortable, warm, and cozy, orgasm is not likely to happen. Researchers have discovered that women need to be comfortable and have their feet kept warm before they feel like engaging in sex. A hot bath, foot rub, or alcohol improves women’s ability to have an orgasm for this reason.
In the human brain, an orgasm can only occur after the amygdala is ‘shut off’. The amygdala is the fear and anxiety area of the brain, and it needs to be quieted….any worry about work, the kids, schedules, to do lists, can interrupt the journey to orgasm. This may be the reason why it takes a woman 3- 10x longer than a man to reach orgasm.
In women, the clitoris can be thought of as the ‘brain below the belt’. Nerves in the clitoris are connected right to the center of the brain. If stimulation to the clitoris is cut off too soon, if clitoral nerves aren’t sensitive enough, or if fear, stress or guilt interferes, an orgasm is stopped dead in its tracks.
Educate yourselves, my friends! Your inner sexual being is being masked by hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, stress, and lack of confidence.
Hormones are chemicals produced by your glands and organs that act as messengers throughout your body. Different hormones control a wide array of essential body functions, including energy level, growth and development, and reproduction.
Peri-Menopause and Menopause put a woman’s body in flux in many ways. The hormones that have been regulating your reproductive cycle, sex drive, mood, and more are ebbing, and very often these low levels have a negative effect on your sex life.
Unbalanced estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, and progesterone other hormones are thought to be a primary cause of age-related female sexual dysfunction, loss of sexual desire, difficulty becoming aroused, and inability to reach orgasm.
The following hormones are thought to be partially responsible for controlling a woman's sex drive:
Estrogen: Estrogen is the primary female hormone, and it helps regulate the menstrual cycle, control the development of female sex organs, and thicken the lining of the uterus to support pregnancy. As a woman approaches menopause — the period of time known as perimenopause, levels of estrogen begin to decrease dramatically. When estrogen levels become so low that the uterine lining no longer thickens, menopause occurs. Low levels of estrogen can have a big impact on your sex drive. You may experience vaginal dryness that can lead to painful intercourse and you may have unstable mood and sleep patterns.
Testosterone: Testosterone, which is primarily thought of as a male hormone, is also made by, and is important to, women. A woman's ovaries naturally produce testosterone, which is used to help make estrogen. Some studies have shown that higher levels of testosterone are associated with increased sexual desire and sexual behavior in women. And since testosterone levels tend to naturally decline in women after menopause, some researchers believe that low testosterone levels may contribute to the reduction of arousal and sexual response that often occurs in older women. Researchers have found that testosterone therapy may improve sexual desire in postmenopausal women who have problems with sex drive, sexual satisfaction, and vaginal dryness too. It can be compounded with Estrogen to be used vaginally in a Vitamin E based cream.
Progesterone: Like estrogen, progesterone is another female hormone that helps control the menstrual cycle and support pregnancy. Levels of progesterone also decline when you reach menopause. While researchers are still working to understand the role that progesterone plays in a woman's sexual function, changing levels of progesterone are thought to be involved in a woman's sexual behavior.
DHEA: Studies have shown that supplementation with DHEA suppositories increases libido, decreases vaginal dryness, and achieve orgasm. View the DHEA studies here.