Leah Millheiser, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California.
Does a “subzero” libido level signal sexual dysfunction? No, many experts agree—because libido dysfunction is diagnosed only when a woman’s lack of desire causes her personal distress. For some women, though, loss of libido is indeed distressing…and fortunately, simple therapies can help.
Leah Millheiser, MD, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine, presents the best simple ways to boost a flagging libido.
Ever since an FDA advisory panel rejected the approval of a so-called “female Viagra”—the drug was deemed no more effective at increasing libido than a placebo—there’s been a lot of debate on the female libido. Key issue: If a woman’s desire for sex is low, is that necessarily a “dysfunction” that should be treated? What women—and their partners—need to know…
When it comes to libido, medical experts agree that there is no “normal” or “abnormal.” Doctors diagnose a libido dysfunction only when there is a recurrent or persistent problem with libido that causes personal distress to the woman.
Therefore, if a woman has no sexual desire but is undisturbed by this fact, then no dysfunction exists. Alternatively, if a woman wants to have sex twice a week but is distressed because she used to want it more often than that, then the decrease in libido is a dysfunction for her.
To diagnose low libido: A woman needs to answer just one basic question—do you think you have a problem with your level of sexual desire? Note: When a man and woman’s desire don’t match, it’s called “desire mismatch,” which is not truly a sexual dysfunction, though the partners may benefit from sex therapy.
Not all doctors ask about their patients’ sexual health, so any woman who experiences chronic or recurrent low libido should tell her gynecologist and/or primary care physician. Most common causes…
It’s important to work with your doctor to rule out underlying physical problems that may be leading to your low libido. In the meantime, simple therapies may help. (All the products mentioned in this section can be purchased from Walgreens.com, which ships its orders in a plain box labeled only with the company name.) Therapies to consider…
Reduce vaginal dryness. Vaginal moisturizers—which are different from lubricants in that they are used two to three times a week, not just before sex—add moisture barriers in the vagina. This helps provide a layer of protection and comfort so that sex is not painful—a common complaint among women who experience vaginal dryness. Recommended: Replens. Follow label instructions. Important: You must use such vaginal moisturizers for at least two months before judging results.
Masturbate. Yes, this simple action can be a powerful libido booster for women—partly because it turns out that sexual desire really is a “use it or lose it” function.
Use lubricants. Sexual lubricants help make sex more comfortable—painful sex is a common cause of low libido. Recommended: Pjur Eros Bodyglide, which is a silicone-based, glycerin-free product. This combination offers several advantages, including a reduced risk for yeast infections or vaginal inflammation, compared with products that contain glycerin.
Increase stimulation before and/or during sex. When testosterone drops, some women need more stimulation to become aroused and to have an orgasm. The best method is to use a vibrator for clitoral stimulation. Some sexual dysfunction patients report that the best vibrator is the Hitachi Magic Wand (available in Walgreen stores but not on their online site)—it provides a very strong vibration. Helpful: Using an over-the-counter botanical oil with a vibrator has been shown in studies to increase a woman’s ability to have an orgasm. Recommended: Zestra Essential Arousal Oils.
Exercise. We know that exercise elevates mood, improves blood circulation and general health, and helps enhance body image. All of these factors can improve sex drive. Recommended: Any aerobic exercise, but especially walking and dancing because they are low-impact, low-stress exercise and can be fun to do. Aim to get out and walk (or dance) every day for at least 20 minutes.