Experiencing low female sex drive, whether the change is sudden or gradual, can be frustrating for women, and that frustration can understandably lead to a search for a solution. Men who have issues performing have the advantage of a pill for their problems (and many more should probably be taking it than actually are). But what about a magic natural pill for women — do libido pills work for them too?
Changes in your sex drive are a normal part of life. Whether it’s the varying levels of sexual interest some women experience throughout their cycles or the result of aging, these changes are common and happen for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t mean you need to accept them.
If you’re looking for solutions to a reduced sex drive, there are some safe libido pills that can help you regulate your sex drive back to normal levels — in certain circumstances. But libido pills aren’t always a straightforward treatment. In fact, some libido pills for women may not even be FDA-approved for what they’re tasked with doing.
Libido pills are designed to treat low sex drive or sexual interest in women.
Low libido is a surprisingly common complaint among adult women — studies estimate that more than a third of women worldwide have low sexual desire, and low sexual desire and low libido are the most common complaints of sexual dysfunction shared by women.
Low libido is often the result of a medical condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder — basically a name for low or absent libido, which, in turn, can be distressing and negatively affect your general well-being.
Low libido can result from a variety of conditions, psychological and physical. It can be caused by everything from age to birth control.
As for these libido pills — the magical correcting capsules for all your libido woes — we’ve got good news and bad news.
The good news is that in the last decade, medical science has managed to find some effective ways to treat low desire for sex in women.
The bad news is that the wide net cast with a term like libido pills includes not just the promising new tools, but also some questionable (and less regulated) herbal supplements. Like horny goat weed for men, some products may claim to be female libido enhancers that can give you powerful orgasms, but these claims aren’t approved or supported by the FDA.
These female arousal pills may also include natural remedies like tribulus terrestris — an herbal remedy with aphrodisiac effects that, in one study, showed benefits for natural lubrication, desire, arousal, orgasm and overall satisfaction. But the problem is that we haven’t seen follow up studies to confirm these benefits.
A dietary supplement that boosts estrogen, meanwhile, may help with hormone-based libido issues, but may not be the first line of treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Female sexual arousal disorder is a relatively new diagnosis (at least as far as medical experts are concerned), so it’s understandable, if frustrating, that there’s only one medication with FDA approval to treat women’s reduced libido.
That medication, flibanserin (the generic of Addyi), was only approved in 2015 after the FDA initially rejected its application in 2009. In the clinical trials of premenopausal women (nearly 3,000 women total) that led to FDA approval, filbanserin increased both sexual desire and the number of satisfying seuxal encounters.
Flibanserin works on brain chemicals to help balance your libido — it’s a serotonin receptor antagonist and also affects your dopamine receptors.
Experts don’t fully understand the mechanism behind how flibanserin works, but they believe that the end result is a boost in dopamine levels and norepinephrine supply — both neurotransmitters are crucial in helping you get and stay aroused.
Flibanserin caused several common side effects during trials: dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea and, in rarer cases, hypotension and syncope.
And while this side effect hasn’t been explored yet in humans, mice did have a spike in malignant mammary tumors when the medication was used at levels well above the recommended dosage.
But as far as libido pills go, flibanserin is really the only name in the game.
Another medication called bremelanotide (the generic of Vyleesi) was approved by the FDA for HSDD, but it’s an injection you give yourself in your belly or thigh skin before sexual activity. We’re not sure that needles have a place in foreplay, and side effects like vomiting, flushing, skin reactions, headache and nausea don’t sound like they set the mood too well. So if you’re looking for an easy-to-take pill for libido issues, bremelanotide isn’t it.
The reality of available libido medications (especially the libido supplements) is that the danger of side effects is high, and your best approach may not actually be medication.
The good news is that there are other ways to treat low libido, and while a healthcare professional can help you find the right one for you, we’re encouraged at the holistic breadth of treatment approaches. And depending on the kind of libido pills you were looking at, it may be both safer and more effective to go with a different option.
Low libido isn’t always a chemical problem, and if that’s the case for you, you may want to put down the libido pills and try a different approach.
Low libido might be the result of poor body image, low self-esteem, mental health conditions and mood disorders like anxiety or depression, stress, previous abuse or negative sexual experiences.
In addition, sexual problems like pain during sex, certain diseases, medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, fatigue, surgeries and the use of alcohol, prescription drugs or smoking may all negatively affect your sex drive and sexual satisfaction.
By the way, this doesn’t even include any specific issues in your relationships — conflict and poor communication with partners and trust issues can all result in a low sex drive.
So, there are myriad options for treatment that might benefit you, depending on the cause of your low libido.
A healthcare professional might advise changes to diet and exercise, spicing up your relationship and focusing on intimacy in new ways, reducing stress and other lifestyle changes to make your sex life better.
They might also advise counseling — therapy is a beneficial tool for exploring individual and interpersonal problems that might be causing your reduced interest in sexual activity.
Sexual enhancement pills and natural supplements are simple, and they work on a simple promise: swallow, wait and forget. The problem is, not everything can be solved by a pill — even the stuff that is sometimes solved by a pill.
What we’re saying here is that, while we all want simple, conflict-free solutions to our problems, some pills may not be the right answer. Even for men and erectile dysfunction, the little blue pill isn’t always a solution.
If low libido problems are affecting your quality of life, don’t try and make them go away — not without confronting some of the stickier parts.
Libido issues might signal more serious problems, physical, psychological or otherwise, and they should be investigated with the help of a healthcare professional. That conversation may feel embarrassing or shameful, but it’s not.
You deserve the sex life you want. To get what you deserve today, talk to someone. Solutions are often easier than you’d expect — and the satisfaction of addressing the problem isn’t the only satisfaction you’ll get from taking the right steps today.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.