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How Hormone Imbalances Can Get in the Way of You Getting It On

Let’s start with the good news: having sex is great for your hormones. Orgasms trigger the release of oxytocin and increase the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. But the inverse isn’t so rosy: if you’re suffering from a hormonal imbalance, it can put a damper on your sex life.

Many common problems in bed can be caused by hormonal imbalances, including trouble achieving arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to whip your hormones into shape so you can get back to having fun—and feeling good—between the sheets.

Are Hormones Affecting Your Sex Life?

Hormones play a crucial role in facilitating a healthy and satisfying sex life. The main reproductive hormones – estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone – work together to enable desire, lubrication, sensation, and orgasm…basically, every element of a good session in bed. But if one or more of these hormones is off balance, the result can make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get it on.

Throughout life, and even throughout the day, your hormone levels will naturally rise and fall. But there are other factors that can cause more dramatic fluctuations in your sex hormones, including:

  • Age: Sex hormone levels naturally decline as we age, but estrogen levels drop especially sharply during menopause (testosterone levels decline more slowly during this time).

  • Life stage: The postpartum period can be a roller coaster for your hormones. Hormonal changes that occur just after pregnancy and during breast-feeding can limit sexual arousal.

  • Stress: Chronic stress can also upset the balance of your hormones, including the hormones that manage sexual arousal and pleasure.

How to Tell if Your Hormones Are to Blame

There are a few signs and symptoms that point to your hormones as the culprit for a lackluster libido or an unsatisfying session in bed. The most common are:

  • Low sex drive or libido: Both estrogen and testosterone contribute to sexual desire. If one or both of these sex hormones are off-balance, it can result in a reduced sex drive and a libido that doesn’t show up to the party.

  • Vaginal dryness: Low levels of estrogen can cause your vaginal walls to become drier, itchier and more irritated, and less lubricated and pliable during sex. This problem is especially common during menopause, affecting an estimated 34% of people aged 57-69.

  • Painful intercourse (dyspareunia): When your ability to naturally lubricate isn’t working as it should, the result can be a condition called dyspareunia, which is the fancy medical term for painful intercourse. It goes without saying, but when sex is not a pleasant experience, it can in turn contribute to reduced sexual desire.

  • Anxiety and depression: Hormone health is often like a carefully crafted domino run. Some research shows that an imbalance of progesterone may increase mood changes and the incidence of anxiety and depression, which in turn can negatively impact your sexual desire and libido.

How You Can Get Back to Feeling Good

Maintaining a healthy sex life is important—and not just for pleasure. Staying active between the sheets (on your own or with a partner) can improve your heart health and immune system, keep your skin looking its best, and relieve stress.

If a hormone imbalance is getting in the way, here are some things you can try to get your hormones—and sex life—back on track:

  • Masturbate: The cure for problems in bed can sometimes be as simple as quality alone time between the sheets, especially if your problem is vaginal dryness. Experimenting with self-pleasure can help to keep your vaginal tissues pliable and moist. Try out different forms of clitoral stimulation and use lubricants when needed to help keep your insides feeling good.

  • Review your medications: Certain medications can negatively affect your libido. If your sex drive has recently taken a dive, ask your healthcare provider to review your medications and suggest any possible changes that can reduce this side effect.

  • Try acupuncture: Though the research isn’t conclusive, some studies show that acupuncture and electroacupuncture may be especially helpful at reducing feelings of depression and other mood changes that occur when you’re under high stress or during, post, and pre-menopause that can affect sexual desire and arousal.

  • Consider phytoestrogens: Research is also mixed when it comes to phytoestrogens—plant compounds that can mimic estrogen in the body when consumed. If low estrogen levels are behind the changes in your sex life, ask your provider if eating more phytoestrogens (found in foods like yam and soy) can help. 

  • Reduce your stress levels: This one seems to be the cure for almost every ill, but it’s true. Finding ways to lower your anxiety and stress that work for you can help your body get back to its optimal hormone operations and, in turn, reduce your problems in bed. (Lower stress plus a better sex life is a wellness win-win.)

There are many things that can throw a wrench into your sex life, including changes to your home life, work, environment, and even a change in your hormone levels. But prioritizing a healthy sex can have positive ripple effects in nearly every aspect of your health, including your skin health. Just consider it your doctor’s orders.

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