The question asked in gynecologists’ offices all over the world: what is libido, and how do I increase it? Maybe your sex drive has mysteriously disappeared one day. Or maybe you feel like your sex life doesn’t measure up to everyone else’s.
We’ll start with a hopefully reassuring fact about libido — although it may feel like it, you’re not the only woman dealing with a low sex drive. Data from a 2008 representative study indicates that almost 27 percent of premenopausal women and 52 percent of menopausal women may have low sexual desire.
Just as we’re all different in so many ways, everyone’s sex drive (or libido) differs. But if your sexual desire isn’t where you want it to be, it’s often worth taking action.
From lifestyle changes to medications, there are a variety of ways to increase female libido and sexual activity. Read on for how to effectively increase libido in women, with methods backed by science.
Look up “normal female sex drive” online and you’ll find that you’re either having too much sex or not enough.
Not only is it exhausting that a woman's sex drive is simultaneously up for debate and a lose-lose situation, but as we mentioned, everyone’s libido is different, driven by a variety of factors. Libido — often used synonymously for sex drive or how often (and how strongly) we want to engage in sexual activity — is the most common sexual dysfunction in women.
Sexual function is a complex process — it involves numerous systems in the human body, such as the neurological and cardiovascular systems, as well as social factors like religious beliefs, health, personal history and more.
While libido and sexual function are driven by various factors, there are some common symptoms of a low sex drive in women, as well proven ways to increase female libido (which we’ll get to).
If you feel like your sex drive has gone M.I.A., you might be noticing some of the following signs:
Loss of sexual desire for a partner
Difficulty achieving orgasm
Few or non-existent sexual fantasies
Stress or concern over lost interest in sex
An active sex life benefits your physical health, mental health and quality of life. And while there’s no exact number or level that makes your sex drive low, high or normal, if you persistently feel disinterested in sex and it’s starting to make you feel distressed, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is defined as the absence of sexual fantasies and thoughts and/or desire for or receptivity to sexual activity that causes personal distress or relationship problems.
HSDD is present in almost nine percent of women ages 18 to 44 and just over 12 percent of those ages 45 to 64.
Still wondering if you need to search “How do I increase my sex drive female?” Don’t worry — below, we’ve shared tips on how to increase sex drive in women.
Whether you’ve talked to a healthcare provider about the possibility of HSDD or just want to increase your sex drive, there are a variety of steps you can take.
You might know that stress isn’t good for your physical health or your mental health. And stress is one of the causes of low libido, affecting you both physically and psychologically.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine noted that high levels of chronic stress are associated with lower levels of genital sexual arousal.
Another good option is exercise, which produces endorphins that can improve your mood and lower the severity of some stress-related symptoms.
Certain lifestyle choices like smoking and excessive drinking can impact your sex drive, causing you to be less interested in sexual activity.
While many people use alcohol to boost sexual arousal, one drink too many or regular drinking may actually decrease genital arousal in women — even if they feel ready for sex mentally.
Likewise, smoking may reduce feelings of arousal by affecting blood flow and increasing feelings of anxiety and tension (add those to the long list of reasons why you should quit).
You don’t have to completely give up drinking and other vices, but dropping or limiting certain unhealthy habits may help to improve both your sex drive and your general quality of life and health.
It’s normal for your sex drive to ebb and flow throughout your relationship, especially if you and your partner have been together for a long time.
If you’ve noticed your interest in sex declining, try taking steps to improve your relationship with your partner.
This could be as simple as letting your partner know how much you care about them or setting aside more time for date nights out together.
Research shows that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction are closely linked. If you find your sex drive lagging along with how happy you are in your relationship, there’s a real possibility that solving one problem could also help with the other.
Another way to increase libido in women? Work on improving communication with your partner.
Clear and open communication can make sex far more enjoyable, which strengthens your connection with your partner and potentially increases your level of interest in sex.
Talking openly with your partner may also help to get rid of stress and anxiety about your sexual relationship.
Talking with a therapist can also help you overcome issues that may be affecting your level of interest in sex.
A small study put 117 women who were experiencing low sexual desire and arousal went through mindfulness-based therapy. After completing six months of therapy, a majority of the women had significantly improved sexual desire, sexual arousal, lubrication, sexual satisfaction and overall sexual functioning.
Meeting with a therapist or counselor either in-person or through online therapy may help you overcome issues that are holding back your ability to enjoy sex or causing you to feel less interested in sex than normal.
We mentioned above that exercise can help reduce stress. If you think that hitting the gym (or yoga mat, or pavement) may help, learn about more benefits of the connection between exercise and mental health.
But exercise has other benefits that can potentially strengthen your sex drive.
Working out can give you extra confidence, as well as increased interest in sex. This 2018 study found that cardiovascular endurance — a common benefit of regular exercise — is linked to increased arousal in women.
And don’t worry if lifting weights or running isn’t your preferred form of exercise. A 2010 study found that 12 weeks of regular yoga resulted in improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, lubrication and satisfaction for the women who participated.
Sometimes, a low sex drive can be caused by hormonal issues, such as changes in the amount of estrogen or progestin hormones your body produces.
A lower-than-normal sex drive can also stem from fluctuations in your body’s testosterone levels (yes, women also need a certain amount of testosterone), which may be linked to your sexual desire and function.
When your hormone levels fluctuate, it’s normal for your sex drive to either increase or decrease in response to these changes.
Testosterone is often prescribed off-label with estrogen to treat low sexual desire in women, but the exact mechanism by which it works is unknown.
Right now, the only evidence for testosterone therapy being effective in treating hypoactive sexual desire disorder is from several controlled trials in postmenopausal women.
If your healthcare provider believes that hormones are causing you to feel less interested in sex than normal, they may ask you to take a blood test to check your hormone levels for low testosterone or estrogen.
Based on the outcome of your test, they may recommend making changes to your lifestyle or using medication to keep your levels of certain hormones within a healthy range for a stronger sex drive and better overall health.
Talking about sex with your doctor may feel embarrassing, but sexual satisfaction is an important part of your overall health and well-being. Sometimes, using certain prescription medications can cause you to feel less interested in sex than you normally are, and if you think this may be the case, it’s important to tell your doctor.
For example, certain antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that are used to treat depression can weaken your sex drive. This is called antidepressant-induced female sexual dysfunction.
Some smaller studies have indicated that medications for high blood pressure and/or heart disease may also have sexual side effects, such as decreased lubrication.
Menstrual abnormalities were also noted in premenopausal women taking spironolactone, another high blood pressure drug that women may use for hair loss or hormonal acne.
If you’ve recently started using a medication that you think may affect your sex drive, don’t stop taking it or adjust the dosage by yourself. Instead, talk to your healthcare provider for more information about what you can do to reduce or manage any sexual side effects.
Search “how do I increase my sex drive” on Amazon and thousands of health supplements promising to boost your libido in little to no time will pop up.
While these products make grand claims, the ingredients used in most of these products generally aren’t backed up by solid science, and none of the products are regulated by the FDA.
Certain female libido supplements, such as DHEA, are associated with potential improvements in sex drive, but can also cause unpleasant side effects such as pattern hair growth, acne, oily skin and a range of drug interactions.
It’s best to be cautious if you’re considering female libido supplements as a way to improve your sex drive. However, there are sex drive pills for women backed by science to treat low libido.
Flibanserin, which is also known by the brand name of Addyi®, is FDA-approved and often prescribed to women with HSDD. Another FDA-approved medication, Vyleesi®, is an injectable drug for women with HSDD who have not yet gone through menopause and whose low libido is not caused by a medical or mental health issue.
Another ingredient that may increase libido in women is ginkgo biloba, which may increase blood flow and has long been thought to contain sexual-enhancing properties. This natural remedy is one of the main ingredients in this desire libido supplement.
If you’re interested in this treatment, you can learn more about libido pills and how they’re effective in boosting sexual desire and drive.
Every person’s sex drive is different, meaning there’s no such thing as a “normal” sex drive for everyone. However, if you feel unhappy with your level of interest in sex, it’s often worth taking steps to increase your sex drive and enjoy a more fulfilling sex life.
Low sex drive or libido can fluctuate and change due to a number of factors, such as health conditions, mental health, sexual health, lifestyle habits, stress and more.
Symptoms of a low sex drive can vary by person, but often result in reduced lubrication, difficulty achieving orgasm, loss of sexual desire for your partner and more. Persistent low libido is referred to as hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
There are several ways to boost libido, such as reducing stress, improving your relationship, making certain lifestyle changes, talking with a therapist, regular exercise, hormone tests and female libido supplements.
A low sex drive can definitely be distressing. But there are plenty of ways to increase libido. Talk to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying causes like medication use or hormone levels. Or if you’re interested in working through this issue with a mental health professional, you can start by trying our mental health services.
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.