How do I get my libido back?
March 16, 2009 10:40 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my libido back?

I'm an early-thirties woman and I've lost my mojo. I'm on one specific hormonal birth control pill, and I take it continuously. I take this pill due to a hormonal imbalance. This is currently the only hbc option I have for my condition. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I've got to work around the birth control and that changing it is not an option.

That out of the way, the pill kills my libido. My partner, bless his heart, has tried many a trick to help me get back into the mood. When we have sex I do enjoy it. It's just that most of the time I'm... meh.

Possibly relevant factors: I am not depressed, nor am I under an undue amount of stress. In fact, my mental state is better than it has been in the past. I get a fair amount of exercise. I could stand to get more sleep but my problem extends to the weekend. I've talked to my doctor but she didn't have much to offer. This problem started when I started this pill.

So what can I do?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

There are reports that Viagra helps women who suffer sexual problems due to use of antidepressants.

It's all very preliminary, and you're not using an antidepressant of course, but I thought I'd toss it out there.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:52 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you need a second opinion, if you've only seen the one doctor. Clearly, I am not a doctor, and I'm not your doctor, but it seems like there has to be a better solution for you than taking a pill that makes you unhappy.

I'm afraid I can't help you much beyond that, because in my case, quitting HBC was the ONLY thing that worked. I'm sure you've already heard that before and don't want to hear it more. I guess what I am getting at, without knowing your exact medical details, is that perhaps another doctor could offer an alternative solution besides this ONE pill. I didn't like the fact that your doctor 'didn't have much to offer.' Even if HBC is the only solution to your hormone imbalance, she should be able to help you more with your sex life. That's an important part of your healthy life and your doctor should care about it.

Anyway, without knowing anything about your life/family/career situation, I don't know whether my other suggestion would be appropriate- but smoking a little weed could go a long way. Inexplicably, I think this depends a lot on your partner- with some people this works great, and with others it doesn't at all. I'm not saying you should do this every time, but it's a nice way to kick-start things after a dry spell. There was actually another post about that . . . not that I think resorting to hard drugs is your solution! just thought it was an interesting thread. But seriously, a little herbal remedy with the right person (meaning you both do it) can be incredible. If that's not for you, there's always good ol' drinking!

But seriously, the doctor thing. As much as I personally hate HBC, I understand that for some it's a necessary evil. (Although it would certainly be awesome for you if you could be off it someday.) However, your doctor should be helping you more, and if she isn't then you deserve a second and better opinion.
posted by lblair at 11:21 PM on March 16, 2009

First--have you already seen a physician to be certain that there are no physiological issues outside of the HBC? Next step is to be sure that the problem is definitely tied to the HBC--it sounds pretty much like you have it pinned down to the pill, which is incredibly common, but there is perhaps some possibility that it just seems like it's related, too. Talking with a doctor could still prove helpful, even if you think you know what the problem is already.

Exercise and physical activity at the right time can do a lot to increase the hormones and neurotransmitters that will get you in the mood.

I also wonder if you have any negative thoughts about sex (your body, your lack of desire being frustrating to your partner, feeling guilty, etc.) because that can certainly kill it for you.

Think of some of the things that have gotten you in the mood in the past. Fantasize a little, get yourself mentally ready. One neat thing about women is that getting psychologically primed for sex beforehand, coupled with foreplay (not in a way that makes it pressured just so that you can have intercourse, but foreplay intended to be pleasurable) can actually PRODUCE physical arousal. Your body and brain will try to coordinate themselves, often times.

I also recommend seeing a therapist trained specifically to deal with sexual relationship issues. S/he will be able to give lots more suggestions based on significant training and knowledge in this area. You really don't have to be depressed in order to gain some great benefits from a therapist with the right background!
posted by so_gracefully at 11:39 PM on March 16, 2009

Nthing the "get a second opinion". There might not be another option for you hbc-wise, but given that hormones may be the root of your problems, I don't know that there's much to be done other than trying to futz with that balance directly. Asking another doc might also be the best way to see about other options (e.g. Viagra, etc). Just because this doc didn't have ideas doesn't mean they don't exist (but given that the problem is medical at its root, you might have more luck asking a doc.)

One more idea: perhaps you can look into online resources for whatever condition you have? You can't be the only one with this problem under this treatment.
posted by nat at 12:05 AM on March 17, 2009

When we have sex I do enjoy it. It's just that most of the time I'm... meh.

Do you masturbate? Because you have to cut that shit right out. If your libido is really gone, you shouldn't be masturbating. If, on the other hand, you still masturbate like the devil, you just find actual sex to be… meh… well, I'm afraid your problems aren't with your libido.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:32 AM on March 17, 2009

I don't understand why you would want to have libido. Is this because your partner has to settle for masturbation and you don't want to see your partner in that position? Apart from that - As I understand it, libido is a sense of dissatisfaction that appears only to be resolvable by sexual contact. If you don't experience that dissatisfaction, what's wrong with that?
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 4:23 AM on March 17, 2009

Even if you have to be on a pill 24/7, is there any reason why it has to be this pill? My sense is that different brands of hormonal contraceptives, with different balances of estrogen/progesterone, can have vastly different effects on individuals' libidos. Could you find a dr. open to doing a little experimenting until you pinpoint the right pill for you?
posted by Bardolph at 4:49 AM on March 17, 2009

I don't understand why you would want to have libido.

There's a serious danger here for derail, but:

Many/most (though not all) people consider a healthy sexual component to be an important part of a healthy life. The OP is clearly one of these. This topic comes up pretty frequently - people losing libido due to a medication. Some of it is not wanting to disappoint a partner. Some of it is not wanting to lose part of your life. Some of it is social pressure. Some of it is not wanting to be disconnected from one of the most basic human drives that has tremendous impact on our lives, on our cultures, our art. Some of it is very simply that human beings are driven by our desires and it's disconcerting and unpleasant sometimes to lose those desires, eg, we want to want. The OP's not going into deep detail because these days, most of us pretty much automatically accept that libido-loss from medication is undesirable and move straight to trying to resolve it.

(from another answer): Even if you have to be on a pill 24/7, is there any reason why it has to be this pill?

Yes. The OP specifically said so in her first paragraph. It's this pill and no other, precisely because of its specific hormonal ratio.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:57 AM on March 17, 2009

Maybe I should change my name to Derailful.

Do you masturbate? Because you have to cut that shit right out. If your libido is really gone, you shouldn't be masturbating. If, on the other hand, you still masturbate like the devil, you just find actual sex to be… meh… well, I'm afraid your problems aren't with your libido.

Begging your pardon, but: What? What in the OP's question even implied that we couldn't take her at face value and need to look for problems in a relationship, etc, as an explanation for disinterest in sex? She specified that it started when she began taking this hormonal BC treatment, which is infamous for nuking libido, and that sleep/stress are probably not factors. And she doesn't say "I'm still masturbating," or imply it, or hint at it. So why the antagonistic suspicion?
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:09 AM on March 17, 2009

I don't understand why you would want to have libido.

Barely ever having sex can kill a relationship, and it's not unreasonable that it would. Partners will be understandable to varying extents, but if it goes on for a very long time and there's no way to fix it, many people would start reconsidering. Not to mention most people like having sex and would miss the feelings they remember getting from it. Not just orgasms, but being close to their partner.

Anyway, I'd like some clarification from the OP: I am curious to know why there is only one specific brand of hbc pill you can take. As someone who has tried hbc pills to correct hormonal issues, this is puzzling to me. What varies among brands is usually the type of progestin, and how much of it. If you need one specific type of progestin, there are usually other brands that offer it but with a different dosage or schedule. That you can't try one of those seems odd to me, though not unthinkable. I just want to be sure your doctor has explained to you why this one pill and absolutely no others, because it's possible that your doctor has not been clear, or possibly doesn't know much about it.

Now, that doesn't mean you won't have better luck on other hbc pills, but you certainly might.

That out of the way: there are tons of ways to correct hormones that don't involve birth control pills. That's just a cheap, easy fix for some women, but it doesn't work for everyone. This is why I'm surprised your doctor has no other options for you. Is this just a general practitioner or a hormone specialist? I would be shocked if it were the latter. If I were you, I'd definitely try another doctor, a specialist, because that ain't right. Another option you can read up on is BHRT;it works great for some people, but do your research. The reason I list this separately is because you'd have to seek out a hormone specialist that does BHRT in particular; it's not likely to be something that would come up in discussion of options otherwise, since they simply wouldn't offer it. You can try and set up consultations to ask questions about how your sex drive will be impacted specifically before you figure out exactly what route you want to take.

Anyway, without more information it seems to me your doctor is really not making all your options clear to you. Good luck!
posted by Nattie at 6:13 AM on March 17, 2009

Years ago when I was on the Pill my libido went in the toilet. It is a reaction to hormonal levels. Ask your doc if the estrogen has to be as high as your pill dosage makes it...that might help.

And no, this is not about your relationship or anything like that-you can safely ignore posters going down those roads. I would nag your doc for a solution and not take no for an answer-this is NOT an acceptable side effect of treatment.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:15 AM on March 17, 2009

Masturbation often has a very different effect for women than it does for men. For many women, masturbating frequently increases sex drive rather than lowering it. So I would suggest to the OP more frequent masturbation. Get yourself off in the way you prefer, and it may help to prime your body to want more partner sex.
posted by decathecting at 6:28 AM on March 17, 2009

I'm going to chime in with the folks saying "Get a second opinion" about your current treatment.

It may be that the medication you're on really is the only solution, and if so you'll need to work through this issue (and I think all of the suggestions about amping up your psychological libido in hope of sparking your physiological libido are very good).

But an impaired libido is a pretty significant side effect of a medication, and I would want to see another GYN or endocrinologist (don't know which of them prescribed this for you) to see if she or he had some other possibilities that might not have the same impact.

I have had the experience of having one doctor say "Frammistan is the ONLY medication for your condition, and if you don't take Frammistan you'll be a shambling wreck" and then getting a second and third opinion that was more along the lines of "Well, Frammistan is the most common treatment, but if you don't tolerate Frammistan well, a combination regime of Gurblethorp and Hasenpfeffer works well for many people." This may not be the case in your situation, but then again it might be.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would recommend exercise. Get sweaty with running, biking, gym machines or classes. The pill and its effect on hormones is definitely a factor, but ultimately the libido is in the brain, and i find nothing wakes it up like a good workout.
posted by rocket88 at 8:54 AM on March 17, 2009

Drugs aside, I think the OP could use help in getting to the right state of mind to help her libido.

I wonder if the OP has thought about trying out pornography or erotic fiction, like those delighfully trashy harlequin novels... Might help her out in the fantasizing department, help get her primed. Even if she's a bit shy and pressured about watching the porn with her SO, she could see if watching it on her own helps her get turned on. Gradually get into that sort of thing with the SO down the road. Try to try some variety (absolutely NSFW)

What about roleplay and costumes? (naughty french maid anyone?) She could also get her own little vibrator to start herself off and when she's really into it then the SO can jump in to participate. And frankly maybe she should just focus on herself for a while, get to know what she really likes again and not put the pressure on to be ready to have sex right away - that can kill the libido pretty quick, getting distracted with someone else's needs.

If these aren't working at all for you, definitely see about changing your hormone dosage
posted by lizbunny at 8:59 AM on March 17, 2009

If the pill kills the libido then it seems time for a different method of birth control, such as condoms etc. If you actually need this pill for hormonal balance, not just birth control, then you really need to have a conversation with your doc and/or get additional opinions.
posted by caddis at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2009

I also need to recommend seeking another medical opinion. I recently posted a question about some libido problems I was/am having post-partum and in the intervening time, it's become clear to me how much of my (and perhaps your) sex drive is a hormonal event. All the psychology in the world wouldn't have helped me - I just needed to wait for my hormones to normalize. I'm still working on my particular circumstance but it's really been an eye-opener to realize how directly my hormonal balance effects my interest in and enjoyment of sex.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2009

Nthing getting another opinion on your hormone imbalance. I also had a nonexistent libido while I was on the pill, and all the foreplay or psychoanalysis in the world couldn't get me in the mood. I stopped taking the pill, and within weeks my drive returned.

I think a lot of doctors are quick to suggest hormonal birth control as a solution to various medical issues just because most women are already familiar with it and would be taking it anyway. Try to impress on your doctor that you really don't care for the side effects and want another option.
posted by tomatofruit at 9:35 AM on March 17, 2009

lblair has it exactly right. If you're not able/willing to seek another medical opinion and you have to use the particular HBC that you're currently using, try a bit of herb and see if it doesn't completely enhance your desire factor as well as providing more powerful orgasms. Nothing like a reward system to keep you coming back for more!
posted by Lynsey at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2009

I've had success with the herb damiana in capsule form.
posted by xenophile at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2009

if you do your kegel exercises that will be a way you can be stimulated all day w/o being inappropriate. Also try and mentally prepare yourself during the day, take a shower in the morning and use your imagination (and hands if you want to). Think about your partner (or a famous person) at work. Maybe even watch a pron together (Pirates XXX is a fun one or anything by Andrew Blake.
Remember the mind is the biggest and most powerful sex organ!
posted by Ekidnagrrl17 at 6:49 PM on March 17, 2009

Second opinion time. Libido fail is a legitimate side effect. Suggestions that the OP is somehow at fault for not masturbating effectively/doing kegels/watching enough porn or even questioning why a woman would want to have a libido are really just sort of offensive (WTF?). The OP said that she and her boyfriend have tried everything. There are a variety of hormonal birth control and anti-depressants that successfully seem to switch off the nerves that make a woman have an orgasm or experience arousal. It is not a psychological thing, nor is it a desire to please her partner or lack of knowledge and experience with her own body.

Go see another Dr and see if you can get your medications switched. If you haven't, consider checking out some holistic ways to balance your hormones without synthetic hormones. The OP doesn't say specifically what kind of hormonal imbalance she has, but it's possible that dealing with something like mood swings and irregular periods vs never being able to get off might be something to weigh the pros and cons of.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:39 PM on March 17, 2009

It may also be worth checking to see if there's another factor involved. Mid-thirties is about the time that many women I know started having thyroid-related problems.
posted by dws at 10:16 PM on March 17, 2009

Civil_Disobedient > You're a guy, and, not me or the poster.

As a counter-example, the more sex I have? The more I want. No sex for awhile, it's a case of sex-inertia. Masturbation is absolutely useful for me at least, and maybe it would be for the poster.
Although hmmm, frequent masturbation where you don't come? Might be even more effective.

That aside - I think you have your solution already:
When we have sex I do enjoy it.
View sex as - one of the pleasures in life. Like massage, or a good meal, and accept every opportunity you get to partake, knowing that you will get in the mood as you progress. Don't feel like you have to be in the mood straight off.

Final suggestion: Regular sex, with a regular break to give yourself room to realise you actually do 'want it'.
For me, I noticed that when I'd go 5 days in a row, then at least two days without,
or every other day, and then at least three days without or so. Kinda pavlovian conditioning for expecting sex...

Wait wait, no *this* is the final suggestion!: Aides. Like, a vibrator when you're masturbating, or having sex, of a couple of different sorts, and possibly pelvic floor exercises, and those tingly lubes, and anything that makes sex really really good (pot?), and using every trick in the book at the same time, just to get you up and over that hump into really enjoying it! Treat yourself. :)
posted by Elysum at 5:38 AM on March 18, 2009

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