Call it desire, vitality or libido–a women’s sexuality enhances her life in many ways. At times, you may want help in restoring or kindling a healthy interest in sex. That’s a perfectly normal way to feel. The stress of daily living, relationship problems, even physical woes can affect your libido. Fortunately, you can take positive steps to enhance your sexual health.
A healthy sex lives brings many benefits. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that older people with active sex lives were happier and more fulfilled. Researchers in Scotland found that sex can play a role in reducing stress. Other studies have found physical and mental benefits, including: reduced pain from PMS; stronger immune systems; fitter, toner bodies; better bladder control–sex exercises the same muscles used in kegel exercises; more regular menstrual cycles; better heart health; stronger couple relationships; and higher self-esteem.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women may face several barriers to sexual health, including lack of desire, no arousal, pain during sex and inability to climax.
Some women may feel they cannot achieve orgasm. Others may feel they are too old to enjoy sex. In fact, a report from the Mayo Clinic says that sexual satisfaction is a normal part of sex throughout life. A female libido has highs and lows over time, however, and menopause may lead to changes that limit arousal or pleasure.
In many cases, women can turn to lubricants, hormone supplements, lovemaking techniques and counseling to make sex enjoyable again.
Common methods for enhancing a women’s sexual health include lubrication, estrogen therapy, lifestyle changes, relationship building and aphrodisiacs.
Lubrication: While arousal and foreplay usually provide enough lubrication, some women may benefit from using a water-based lubricant. Be sure to use water-based, not petroleum jelly, which is hard to clean after sex, and which can damage birth control devices and condoms.
Estrogen Therapy: ACOG states that low levels of estrogen can reduce libido and lubrication after menopause. Estrogen supplements or topical creams may help.
Lifestyle Changes: According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy lifestyle choices can fuel sexual desire. Recommendations include exercising and reducing stress through meditation or relaxation techniques.
Relationship Building: Women often tie sexual intimacy to personal intimacy. Working to improve communication and solve conflicts in your relationship can lead to a more satisfying sex life as well. At the same time, exploring sex games and fantasies with your partner can help make you a stronger couple.
Aphrodisiacs: While not proven scientifically, aphrodisiacs represent a fun and safe way to bring some spice to your sex life. Experiment to see what works for you and your partner. Common aphrodisiac foods and herbs include asparagus, oysters, ginkgo balboa and chocolate.
Due to the private nature of sex, women may hesitate to ask for outside help. Yet sex therapy, a form of psychotherapy, can help women (and men) feel more fulfilled and more confident in their sexuality. According to the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), sex therapy can help women with low sexual desire, teach lovemaking skills and help build a better relationship with a partner.
When alternatives fail, medical treatment may help. Prescription medications and physical problems can lead to a lower sex drive and less pleasure during sex. In addition, changes in hormone levels may cause a drop in sexual desire. Don’t be shy about exploring possible solutions with your physician. Return to an active and healthy sexuality could be as simple as adjusting a medication or starting hormone therapy.
Testosterone supplements have been claimed to help increase female libido. Recent research indicates that a sudden loss of interest in sex can be a normal response to stress in life. In other cases, it can be a sign of depression or physical illness. See a doctor if you become concerned about a loss of interest in, or pleasure from sex.