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What causes low libido?

General Sex

What causes low libido in women

Contrary to what is often depicted in the media, not everyone wants to have sex all the time. It is very common for sex drive to fluctuate from day to day, and many people simply have less interest in sex — and that is perfectly normal. But low libido (aka low sex drive or minimal interest in having sex) is a common concern that affects women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Relationships, lifestyle, and medication are potential factors. And while having a low sex drive isn't a huge cause for concern, it can have an impact on your life and your relationships. Read on to learn more about what can cause a low sex drive and what you can do to increase it.

What is libido?

Libido is your sex drive or desire to have sex. Initially used as a catch-all term for sexual desire coined by Sigmund Freud, the modern definition encompasses the emotional, psychological, and physical aspects of sexual attraction and activity. Libido varies significantly from person to person, and lifestyle, mental, emotional health, and physical well-being can all influence it.

How common is low libido?

It’s pretty common for someone to experience low libido or a lower sex drive at some point in their lives. Even though these fluctuations are normal, persistent low libido is something that you may want to look into (if it’s a concern to you). Talking to your doctor or a therapist can help you explore any underlying causes.

Low libido in women and people assigned female at birth

Women and people assigned female at birth experience naturally fluctuating libidos both within the menstrual cycle and over the course of their lifetimes. Some report heightened libido around the time of ovulation (mid-cycle) but a lower libido during other times of the menstrual cycle. It is also natural for sex drive and overall interest in sex to change as we move through puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Not wanting to have sex isn’t abnormal, but if it’s consistent or causing distress in your relationship or other aspects of your life, you may want to explore if something is causing it.

Symptoms of low libido

Here are some of the most common symptoms of a low libido.

No interest in sexual activity

If you’re normally into having sex but feel disinterested or not in the mood for the next go-around — that's pretty normal. But if it happens frequently, this might be a sign that something else is contributing to a lower libido..

No sexual fantasies or thoughts

Not sure where all your sex fantasies or “spicy” thoughts went? Can’t remember having them in the first place? Sexy thoughts and fantasies often correlate with overall sexual desire. Not having them isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but try to notice if they relate to a lack of interest in having sex, or if you've noticed a significant reduction in sexy thoughts or just getting turned on.

Feeling stressed or concerned by lack of sexual activity or fantasy

Feeling stressed or concerned about a lack of sexual activity or sex drive is a key indicator of low libido and can impact your overall well-being even more. As with most things, stress will only make it worse!

Causes of low libido

There are a variety of factors from relationships to medication that can impact your sex drive. Here are some of the most common:

Relationship issues

Your relationship, as awesome as it might be, can affect your sex drive. Communication problems, lack of trust, or intimacy issues can sometimes make people want to have less sex. Even the desire to have sex with your partner can fluctuate over the course of your relationship or diminish, especially if underlying relationship issues aren't addressed.

Medical conditions that affect sex drive

Blood flow, blood pressure, an underactive thyroid, hormonal imbalance, and pain are all factors that can have a substantial impact on your body physically and mentally. It’s only natural that they could directly affect your sex drive as well. Some medical conditions that can cause low libido include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease (like high cholesterol)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hypothyroidism

Hormonal fluctuations

For people with a uterus, this is a common one. Our hormones change significantly over the course of our lives, and can be impacted by hormonal birth control, diet, lifestyle, pregnancy, and even breastfeeding. Some may have an increased libido during pregnancy, while others may experience a decrease. Menopause, which is when your uterus stops producing eggs, can lead to decreased estrogen levels and ultimately a decline in libido.

Mental health conditions

Just as stress affects your body, so can mental health conditions like depression and trauma. Neurotransmitters linked to depression can contribute to low libido. Trauma related to previous sexual experiences can also impact your sex drive. When your comfort and desire for sexual activity goes down, it can cause you to want to avoid it altogether.


Medications that affect your blood flow or hormones can directly affect your libido. Certain medications linked to decreased libido include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Birth Control/Hormones
  • Chemotherapy
  • Blood Pressure Medications


It’s no secret that stress impacts everything. High levels of stress, regardless of what it’s related to (work, family, relationships, etc.), can lower your sexual desire. It also interferes with hormonal balance, which can lower your libido.


When you’re exhausted, no matter the cause, you’re not up for doing much of anything. But persistent fatigue, whether due to a busy lifestyle or other health issues, can zap your energy for sexual activities.

Recreational drugs & alcohol

A drink now and then shouldn’t impact your sex drive, even if you have, say, some wine before getting down with your partner. But too much can stall your libido. That goes for recreational drug use, too. Smoking impacts your sex drive as well because it decreases blood flow.


Depending on the person, age can also play a big role. We experience hormonal changes and shifts in our overall health as we age and that can influence how much we want to have sex or if we want to have sex at all.

Treatment for low libido

Just because you have a low sex drive doesn’t mean it’s permanent. If you want to increase your sex drive, explore both mental and physical things you can do to increase it. Potential treatments include:

Hormone therapy: For women or people assigned female at birth experiencing hormonal imbalances, hormone therapy may be a viable option. This can help regulate hormonal levels and improve your libido.

Medications that boost libido: Certain medications are designed to enhance sexual desire and function. As with any new medication, consult with a healthcare professional to see if they're right for you.

Working with a sex therapist: Sex therapists are qualified psychologists, doctors or healthcare professionals who specialize in problems dealing with sexual activity or low sexual desire. Sex therapy involves exploring and addressing psychological factors that may contribute to low libido and help you overcome them.

Reducing alcohol and recreational drug use: It could be as simple as a lifestyle change. Cutting back on alcohol or drugs could help increase your desire for sex.

Reduce stress: Stress can play a big role in reducing libido, so try to lower your stress levels by getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, eating healthy, nutrient-dense meals, and explore some self-care practices like massage or a luxurious bath.

Addressing mental health concerns: If depression is suppressing sex drive, talking with a therapist and/or considering medications may be the next step. Alternatively, if you’re concerned that an antidepressant is making your sex drive worse, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

Plan a sexy date night: Set the mood and spend an evening connecting with your partner. Try new ways of being intimate and turning each other on. Exploring each other’s erogenous zones, lightly touching, kissing, and telling each other what you find attractive about each other can all help you get turned on and increase your desire for sex.

It’s ok to have a low libido

Don't want to have sex? That's totally ok. We’re not all horny and ready to go all the time (and we don’t need to be). However, if a consistently low libido is cause for concern, you can get help. Much of the time, the issue is rooted in our mental or emotional health. That said, be sure to speak with a doctor or healthcare professional to see if there are any underlying physical conditions.