While there isn’t yet a little blue pill for increasing sex drive in women, there are a number of things you can do to give your libido a boost! The first step in how to increase your sex drive is to recognize what’s holding it back.
What You Need to Know to Boost Your Sex Drive
We reached out to Dr. Chelsea Holland, DHS, MS and she recommended: “To address low libido you first want to be an investigator to find out what is blocking you from being willing to be intimate. This might include stress, lack of sleep, constant arguments with your partner, medication, kids, pain in sex, negative body image and chronic pain.”
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With this in mind, we investigated ten factors that are among the most common that can upset the balance of your libido, which can obviously lead to an issue if your partner wants to have sex more than you do. You might even feel out of sorts if you know your sex drive isn’t what it used to be, too!
1. Hormones Play An Important Role
The two main hormone types that affect libido are androgens, a group that includes testosterone , and estrogen . Although testosterone is known as being a man’s hormone, a woman’s body actually produces testosterone, too. Not only can it increase your tendency to be aggressive, but it can also boost your sex drive !
If you feel like you’re not as interested in sex as you could be or have been, it might be due to a dip in your testosterone levels. There are testosterone supplements that can fix this , but be aware that they come with risks such as weight gain and an increase in body hair. Talk to your doctor before starting any treatment. She might not suggest testosterone or may provide a different prescription to balance your hormones.
Estrogen, the woman’s hormone, also plays a part in increasing your libido – or decreasing it when your estrogen levels are low. Estrogen levels change during your life and even your menstrual cycle. Estrogen first begins to play a role during puberty, both by activating your menstrual cycle so that your body releases eggs and menstruates when those eggs are unfertilized and by encouraging allover body growth . Sex drive increases or even begins for many girls at this age.
Estrogen and other hormones also fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. The hormone is responsible for activating growth of the uterine lining every month, among other things. But it’s the midcycle progesterone & testosterone spike that you might make you super horny right before you’re about to get you periods  .
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Related: How to stop being so horny.
Pregnancy is another time when hormones change. Your hormones levels all rise, and this can lead to moody behavior and either increased or decreased sex drive. Once you give birth, it might take a while for things to get back to normal. But it’s not just estrogen and testosterone that affects your libido: even the prolactin your body produces during breast-feeding minimizes ovarian activity and can affect sex drive .
This is both why it’s harder to get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding (although not impossible!) and why you might find it difficult to get in the mood for sex: your hormones are still unbalanced. Fortunately, this is usually temporary.
During menopause, your body stops producing as much estrogen, which often means a dip in libido  . If you have low estrogen, supplements are available. But it’s best to talk to your doctor before you try any hormonal supplements as you’ll learn below.
2. Birth Control Is Interfering
Hormonal birth control such as the pill, patch, shot, implant or hormonal IUD can all affect your sex drive . These birth control options add new hormones to your system.
Some birth control is known as a combination method because it carries male and female hormones, but not all do. Progestin-only birth control pills, also known as POP or mini-pills, do not contain estrogen.Most do, however. This method prevents you from ovulating, which prevents your ovaries from making additional hormones, including testosterone.
Estrogen has positive benefits aside from contraception, including regulating periods and reducing cramps. But some side effects aren’t positive, and lowered sex drive is one of them. While not every woman will see her libido decrease when using birth control, many do . One reader stated:
So many birth controls that so many women are taking make them lose their sex drive immensely. I have just recently stopped using mine and have found that I am starting to feel like myself again!
Why? Because your ovaries also produce testosterone , and when birth control alters the way they work, your system has less testosterone.
You might consider a few solutions. First, you might switch to the mini-pill or simply a birth control method that contains fewer hormones, which may disrupt your body’s hormonal balance less. Another option is to opt for nonhormonal birth control methods such as condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps or copper IUD.
Whatever you decide to do, talk to your doctor. Birth control is medication, and she may advise you not to quit cold-turkey. Remember that your hormones may take a while to balance out, too.
3. Stress Lowers Your Libido
Although sex can be a great stress reliever, stress can also make you feel disconnected from our partners and even your body, leading to a drastic decrease in the amount of sex you’re having and how much you want to have sex.
According to Dr. Celeste Holbrook, Ph.D., “It is very difficult to be vulnerable, let go and relax into pleasure with your partner when your mind is full. The body will follow the mind anywhere, so it is helpful to try and unhook from responsibilities in any way you can, including asking for help.”
As you learned in our guide to getting horny (Haven’t read it yet? Don’t wait to check out our advice on how to get horny), stress is known as a brake. It slows down sex drive. One reader to our arousal poll advised that women:
Also get rid of anxiety in your life by any means that is safe and healthy.
You can more easily deal with some stress than others. For example, you might be able to ship the kids off to the grandparents’, ask your partner to help you do the dishes or take turns sensually massage one another. The former is a great form of foreplay as well as a way to relax.
There are times in our lives that will be more stressful than others, and you may not be able to do anything about it. If you can, reduce obligations at work, school or home, and find ways to make them less stressful. Figure out what is a priority, and don’t overextend yourself. If you can’t do that, consider meditation or yoga to help relieve stress.
Sometimes you may need to seek professional help. Therapy and medication can help, especially if you struggle with anxiety. Anxiety can bleed into your sex life and make it less satisfying.
Although you might feel a little anxious about sex (find out how to deal with anxiety about sex), especially if it’s your first time or the first time with a new partner, sex shouldn’t add to the amount of stress you’re experiencing. It has the potential to be pleasurable, a way for you to connect with your partner and a positive thing in your life. And satisfying sex can actually help you ditch anxious feelings because the hormones released during and after sex can help you to relax.
Related: Why Does Sex Feel So Good
4. Medical Conditions (or Their Treatments) Are to Blame
Low sex drive might be a symptom of a medical condition. If your condition is currently undiagnosed, reporting low sex drive to your doctor may help diagnosis. You may have received a diagnosis and not even realized that low sex drive came along with that diagnoses because doctors do not always emphasize sexual health.
Among the conditions or diseases that can impact libido are:
- Sleep apnea
- Mood disorders
- Renal failure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Lack of androgens
- Hyperprolactinemia (an excess of prolactin )
- Diabetes 
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease
- PCOS 
The first six items on this list may result in lowered libido because your body is fatigued. #7 and #8 are hormonal imbalances, and hormones are key to sex drive .
You may be receiving treatment for one of these conditions, but sleep apnea is a condition that often goes untreated, and low sex drive is just one effect.
But you may need to look beyond physical ailments. Mental conditions are known to wreak havoc on libido, especially anxiety and depression. The opposite is also generally true: happiness levels predict sexual desire .
Unfortunately, treatments for these conditions may also spell bad news for your libido. SSRIs are one category of treatment that can contribute to lowered libido  and medications that lower blood pressure may reduce blood flow in your genitals .
Talk to your doctor about switching doses or medicines if you’ve noticed that your ability to get in the mood for sex has decreased since starting any new medication.
5. Poor Health Makes for Poor Sex Drive
You might not struggle with specific health conditions, but if you’re not the most healthy person, your sex drive is unlikely to be healthy. Poor health may mean that you lack energy, a must to do anything, let alone have sex.
Other unhealthy habits can also prevent you from getting in the mood for sex. For example, a glass of wine loosens some people up just enough to enjoy sex. But too many glasses, and you might have no desire (or wind up having sloppy sex that satisfies no one). Other drugs may have a similar effect.
If you’re in the habit of skipping sleep, you might want to rethink it. Being well-rested is one factor of a healthy sex drive .
And since blood flow is important for physical arousal, you’ll want to stay away from cigarettes. Smoking is no good for blood flow .
Proper diet and exercise can boost your energy and your sex drive, but it can also provide another boost: self-image.
6. You’ve Got Body Issues
We’re constantly bombarded with images of perfect women – and men. But even supermodels are Photoshopped, and professional hair and makeup artists spend a lot of time to make those people look so perfect. When even celebrities can look at their own photos and not recognize themselves, it’s pretty much guaranteed that no one can live up to these crazy-high expectations.
When we talked to Dr. Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D. about this she elaborated that, “Many things can interfere with women’s desire, including receiving negative and shaming messages about sex and your body when growing up, traumatic sexual experiences and poor body image”
What does this mean for the 99.9% of us who aren’t supermodels? Many of us have body and self-esteem issues that can rear their ugly heads when it comes time to disrobe for a partner! You’re not alone if you have body issues. In fact, many men feel something similar.
Remember that your partner chose you, and if you’re in love, that makes you even more attractive to him. Also, remember that there’s no single way to be attractive. You’ve probably liked some guys who are quite different from one another!
One thing you can do to feel better about yourself and increase your libido is to invest in lingerie – and clothing – that make you feel sexy. We’ve got advice for picking out sexy lingerie in this post. Invite your partner to help you, and it’s sure to increase your sex drive!
Consider snapping a few sexy selfies and sending them to your lover (sexting is one way that many women get horny) or hiring a photographer to do a boudoir shoot. Both of these can be real confidence boosters!
For overcoming body issues, Dr. Jenn advises that, “At a foundational level, it’s important for women to know that they are not broken and that their relationship isn’t broken, and if they are willing to spend some time journaling on their beliefs, emotions, and experiences around this topic, they can start to figure out what’s going on.”
Finally, try not to get too caught up in how you look during sex. Focus on how you feel and what you can do to make your partner feel good. Not everything we do during sex is going to look sexy, but it often feels good nonetheless.
7. You Have Trauma to Work Past
Past sexual assault, no matter how “minor,” can also cause sexual dysfuntion . Whatever someone else did to you, it’s not your fault. But if you want to enjoy an active sex life, you deserve to have one!
It might be difficult to deal with your assault if you’ve never admitted it to someone. Speaking with a professional can help.
Eventually, you may want to let your partner know about your past if only so that he can help you work through it.
8. You’ve Only Had Bad Sex
If you’ve only had sex that lead to pain, was coerced, felt awkward, or otherwise left you feeling other than connected or fulfilled, you’re not likely to want to have sex. And why would you?
All too often, men get what they want in the bedroom, and women are left out in the cold. In fact, some young women define good sex simply as sex that doesn’t hurt . It’s no wonder that some women wind up with a low libido. They’re not getting anything out of the deal!
This might be why some women treat sex as a commodity to be traded to their man in turn for something that benefits them. Of course, sex has many benefits that you should be reaping, and you should absolutely be getting yours, too! Reduce dissatisfaction with your sex life to increase your libido .
There are several ways to go about this.
- Discover what you like. Self-exploration is probably the best way. Use your fingers or a toy. See what feels good and what brings you to orgasm. Focus on your clitoris as most women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm. While you’re at it, discover all the areas on your body that can react to sensual and sexual touch and incorporate them into your routine. Read about your 12 erogenous zones. Once you discover pleasure and orgasm, your libido might increase. Plus, you can bring those lessons into the bedroom with your partners.
- Ask for what you like. Talk to your partner about what you want from sex before you even get into the bedroom. Check out our guide to talking about sex with your partner for some tips. You can use this guide to describe your wants and needs, become more sexually fulfilled and grow closer to your lover. And when you’re between the sheets, ask specifically for the type of touch that you crave and need. This might mean asking for more foreplay, less intensity, or a different sex position. It’s hard to talk about sex.
- Take matters into your own hands. If your partner isn’t doing what you need or perhaps can’t quite get it right, you can help! Grab your favorite vibrator or rub yourself until you orgasm while he’s inside you (the guide to using your vibrator will help). Grab his hand and show him exactly how you like it.
9. You Need Something More
Okay, so maybe your sex isn’t bad. But is it boring?
If your idea of a wild night is having sex in missionary position before bed, you’re missing out on a lot of sexual possibilities. And for many people, this type of sex doesn’t cut it. They want more, and they’re not getting it.
You might have a serious fetish for an object, or you may have a kink (try one of these kinky sex ideas) that makes sex more interesting and pushes you over the edge into orgasmic bliss.
Psst, check out the complete list of sexual kinks and fetishes.
There are a lot of fantasies to explore, and we’ve talked about many of them on the Bad Girls Bible:
- BDSM and light bondage
- Dominating your partner or being submissive
- Threesomes or group sex
- Role-playing with with other half
The more you explore, the more things you’ll find that you enjoy!
You don’t necessarily need to try out a fantasy, either. Perhaps you can watch some porn and read – or even write! – some erotica that features your favorite scene. Fantasizing is a natural part of human sexuality and conducive to sex drive  , and you might even find it hot to talk about fantasies with your partner. Eventually, you may find yourself wanting to have sex.
Read More: The 10 Most Common Sexual Fantasies
10. Your Relationship Is Rocky
Many people have a hard time getting in the mood for sex if there’s something wrong in their relationship . Fighting all the time or not communicating at all can both make you feel disconnected from your partner. Cheating can also make it difficult to be sexually intimate with your partner.
Some issues can be tackled at home while others will require the help of a professional. Even if you go yourself, you might see some improvement in your relationship – and in yourself! It helps when your partner is willing to work on your issues together, however.
Remember that even if you deny issues in your relationship, getting in the mood for sex can be hindered because of them. Denial isn’t a tactic for a strong and healthy relationship or any sex that you might have with your partner. It’s better to be honest, both to yourself and your partner.
All relationships have ups and downs, and sex is often the first thing to go out the window when you’re in a slump. Having sex when you don’t feel connected to your partner may feel wrong, but it can also help you reconnect when you need it the most. While sex cannot fix a relationship that lacks a strong foundation, it can help to make you feel closer to your partner when things are good. Plus, fixing your relationship can breathe new life into your sex life.
However, if you can’t seem to work through your relationship issues, you might be better off dumping him. This is especially true if your low libido is a result of abusive behavior such as insulting and belittling you. If your partner displays any of these signs of abusive behavior, it’s important to end your relationship as safely and quickly as possible. Your sex drive might return when you’re with a better partner.
Your Libido Might Be Totally Normal
If your libido waxes and wanes, you want to have sex for different reasons to your (male) partner  or it seems to always lag behind him or even seems completely mysterious, don’t freak out. Your sex drive might be completely normal.
Let’s talk about why…
First, it’s normal for sex drive to change. At the beginning of a relationship, you might want sex all the time. As the novelty wears off and real-life responsibilities set in, you may desire sex less. When you have to make a point to have sex, your sex life might seem barren. Remember that many people find themselves wanting sex when they have it more.
So just because you’re not craving sex at this very moment doesn’t mean that your sex drive won’t return in full force once you have more time and less stress.
Secondly, it does no one any favors to compare a woman’s libido to a man’s. Too often a woman’s sexuality, including her sex drive, has been viewed as the junior version of a man’s sexuality. But this does a disservice to a sexuality that’s not lesser-than but simply different.
Women may want sex less than men in general. It’s neither realistic nor advantageous to expect your sex drive to line up with your partner’s libido (whether this means a current partner or any partner).
Of course, that’s not true for every woman. You might want sex as much as or more than your partner. That can be completely normal.
You might want to feel loved and emotionally close before you want sex. That’s common for women  — and some men, too!
There’s another difference in the way that men and women experience sexual desire, and this is a biggie when it comes to understanding your sex drive. Dr. Celeste Holbrook explains, “Many men experience spontaneous arousal: arousal occurs so they seek out sexual experiences.” In other words, there’s nothing sexual going on around them, yet they find themselves craving sex or even getting an erection.
Some women experience desire randomly like this, but a large component of women’s sexual desire is responsive rather than spontaneous . This means that your desire kicks in after arousal and when your environment includes sexual cues. Maybe you find yourself horny after giving your partner a hand job. Some women like their partners to start with oral sex even before they feel aroused; it’ll soon follow.
But if you have responsive desire, and you’re not receiving those cues, your libido has nothing to respond to. You might feel like you have little or no sex drive (and current research methods may incorrectly find this to be true ). Really, you just need the right cues to activate it. Sexual activity and emotional connection can provide those cues .
If you can only seem to get in the mood when things are just right, you might have responsive desire. The things that make sex “just right,” are the cues that you best respond to.
And in case you’re thinking that there is something wrong with having responsive desire, Dr. Holbrook explains that, “Neither model of arousal is wrong, but we as a society tend to think only in terms of spontaneous arousal. It can be very helpful to understand that her arousal may only show up after she starts engaging in sensual behavior.”
Responsive desire is sometimes known as receptive desire, and being receptive is useful. If you’re not quite in the mood but begin fooling around with your partner, watch him masturbate or even give him a helping hand, you might find that desire kick in. This doesn’t mean that you should always force yourself to have sex when you don’t want it, but you might give it a try if you want to want sex. This may happen more often if you’re in a long-term relationship .
M.D. Rosemary Basson began spreading the word of responsive desire in women in the early 2000s  , and sex educator Emily Nagoski carries on the torch. In fact, Nagoski spoke out against “pink Viagra” because she believes that a woman’s desire being responsive is not a negative or abnormal. It’s healthy and typical because desire does not need to start at any particular stage in the sexual response cycle.
Perhaps that’s why both men and women have a hard time differentiating between desire and arousal .
Anyway, your sexual response cycle as a woman may be more circular than phasic .
You Might Be Asexual
One thing we wanted to mention is asexuality. A person who is asexual might never have what is considered a “normal” libido. As much as 5.5% of the population is asexual .
This could potentially be because of medical factors discussed above. But many asexuals are not distressed by this lack of sexual desire. Some professionals even doubt whether to classify asexuality as a sexual dysfunction of low desire. .
Furthermore, asexuals can still experience romantic attraction and get into romantic relationships, and some still masturbate. Some asexuals engage in sexual activities to bolster their relationships and to please their partners .
Could You Be Gay?
Most of the readers at Bad Girls Bible are straight women. But sometimes an inability to get in the mood for sex may really be a lack of desire for your male partner. You might actually be attracted to women and not men.
It’s up to you to discover the truth about your sexuality and then to determine what you do with this information. But realizing sexuality helps many people be true to themselves, be happy and to experience healthy sexual desire.
Note that straight women respond to women in porn as well as men , so this may not be a helpful clue.
What The Science Says
One study into sexual desire found that
We found nominally significant main effects on sexual desire for three ESR2 -linked SNPs when controlled for anxiety, suggesting that individuals homozygous for the G allele of the rs1271572 SNP, and the A allele of the rs4986938 and rs928554 SNPs had lower levels of sexual desire.
If you’re not a scientist, what you need to know is that variations in a woman’s estrogen receptor can affect sexual desire. Some women may naturally have lower sex drives because of this difference .
Researchers have also looked into making the “female” Viagra.” Viagra increases blood flow to the penis, so scientists have studied if a similar approach can work for women. They’ve had little luck with this approach but have discovered the unintended side effect of increased arousal in some women who take Wellbutrin, a medication for depression  .
Because women experience a greater disparity between mental and physical arousal, the key to increasing a woman’s sex drive might come from drugs like Wellbutrin that affect the brain and not medication that affects blood flow.
One medication, Flibanserin, has been approved for low libido in women. Like Wellbutrin, it was designed to combat depression (but failed) . It comes with plenty of side effects, especially for women who use hormonal birth control or alcohol and isn’t universally effective, however.
- If you’re interested in learning more about the interplay between being in a relationship, masturbation, sexual frequency and sexual satisfaction, this post by David J Ley Ph.D. offers insight. He also breaks down differences between men and women.
- Come As You Are is a book by Dr. Emily Nagoski that explains how a woman’s sex drive work, including responsive desire and the dual-control method. In her book, Nagoski illustrates how your libido might not be low or broken, simply misunderstood.
- You can also read an op-ed by Dr. Nagoski from the New York Times that introduces you to these subjects.
- Sexology International separates desire from the response cycle and details Basson’s model for sexual motivation.
- Dr. Nagoski argues why treating low sexual desire in women who experience responsive desire might not be right.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’ve always had a low sex drive; is that normal?
A: Yes, this may be normal. As Dr. Holland explains, “Libido is not a static thing and can go up and down throughout life.” It naturally varies, and some people simply feel less desire than some people. Men typically have higher drives for sex than women ; although this is not always the case. For several reasons we’ve discussed in this post, your normal-for-you sex drive might seem low when compared to others, even though it’s pretty typical.
As you’ve read here, you may have responsive desire and not low desire.
Occasionally, low libido is a side effect of another medical or mental condition. We cover this in point 4 above.
Q: Why do I want to masturbate but have no desire for sex?
A: The desire to masturbate isn’t always the same one for sex. Masturbation may be more about physical release, stress relief, or orgasm than sex, which involves another person and can foster connection. Masturbation may only require arousal, not sexual desire, and you don’t feel the pressure to look or smell good, so it takes less preparation.
Being in a sexually active relationship doesn’t negate a desire for masturbation for any gender  (although, marriages lacking intimacy may result in more masturbation ). The frequency of sex doesn’t affect the frequency of masturbation, but women who are sexually satisfied might masturbate more ! One survey finds that people masturbate less when in a relationship but not that they stop . Some people may find masturbating complements sex with a partner.
Even some asexual people masturbate despite not having an urge to have sex with other people . Because masturbating isn’t a substitute for sex. It’s its own thing.
Q: What will happen to my desire as I go through menopause?
A: Menopause is one of those big life changes that affect your sex drive (others include puberty, injuries or illnesses, and even changes in relationship status). The reasons for this are mostly biological. When your body deems that it’s no longer necessary to have a menstrual cycle because you won’t be wanting any more babies, it shuts down the factory. This includes a reduction in estrogen .
And Dr. Holland explains, “The decrease of estrogen in the body can affect the sensory organs, production of pheromones, the elasticity and thickness of skin, muscle mass and vaginal lubrication,” all of which will affect your libido.
Estrogen supplements can boost desire , and a personal lubricant can help to make sex more comfortable in these women.
Unfortunately, there may be no easy way to increase your sex drive, and you might have to put in long-term effort to fix problems that were long-term. Fortunately, the understanding of female libido is increasing all the time, and more professionals are willing to work with patients/clients to find long-term solutions to low libido.
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