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Hormonal Changes and Sexual Desire

Welcome to the Sexual Wellness for Women Podcast – your trusted resource for sexual wellness during menopause and different stages of life. I’m your host, Allie, a board-certified sexologist and certified integrative wellness coach. As I pursue my PhD in mind-body medicine, I’m dedicated to providing you with the knowledge, tools, and support you need to navigate the complexities of sexual wellness.

As a sexologist and integrative wellness coach, I combine scientific knowledge with a compassionate and holistic approach. I believe in the power of mind-body connection and the transformative potential of embracing our unique sexual selves. Together, we’ll navigate through the complexities and debunk myths surrounding sexual wellness during menopause and different life stages.

So, whether you’re in the midst of menopause, perimenopause, or simply seeking guidance on sexual wellness, this podcast is for you. It’s time to prioritize your sexual well-being and embrace the vibrant, confident, and fulfilled woman you are.

Today is Friday, 3/8/2024 –thank you for tuning in and giving me a listen.

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TOPIC: Hormonal Changes and Sexual Desire

The world of hormones and their profound impact on women’s sexual desire through different stages of life. With a focus on peer-reviewed research, we uncover how specific hormones orchestrate the symphony of sexual desire from the menstrual cycle to menopause.

Understanding Hormonal Changes

Our sexual desire is influenced by a delicate balance of hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and others. Estrogen, known for its role in regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining sexual health, increases libido and vaginal lubrication. Progesterone, on the other hand, often has a counteractive effect on sexual desire. Testosterone, though typically considered a male hormone, also plays a crucial role in female libido (Davis, S. R., & Wahlin-Jacobsen, S. (2015). Testosterone in women—the clinical significance. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 3(12), 980-992).

A book I’m reading on hormones: THE HORMONE OF DESIRE BY SUSAN RAKO, MD.

Hormonal Changes and Sexual Desire Through Life Stages

Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle showcases a dynamic interplay between estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. During the follicular phase, leading up to ovulation, estrogen levels rise, enhancing sexual desire. Ovulation marks the peak of estrogen and the surge in testosterone, further boosting libido. Following ovulation, during the luteal phase, progesterone levels increase, which may decrease sexual interest for some women (Bullivant et al., 2004).

Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about a surge in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone. These hormonal increases can lead to fluctuations in sexual desire, with some women experiencing heightened libido, especially during the second trimester, when hCG levels start to stabilize and estrogen and progesterone continue to rise (Leeman & Rogers, 2012).

Postpartum

Estrogen and progesterone levels plummet in the days following delivery, contributing to the emotional and physical changes many new mothers experience. Prolactin levels rise to stimulate milk production, and oxytocin’s increase fosters mother-infant bonding but can also influence postpartum mood and sexual desire. These hormonal adjustments can impact a woman’s libido, with many experiencing a decrease in sexual desire during the initial postpartum months (Leeman & Rogers, 2012).

Additionally, a review by O’Hara and Swain (1996) highlights the association between these hormonal shifts and postpartum mood disorders, which can further affect a woman’s sexual health and desire:

Menopause

The transition into menopause is marked by a decline in estrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries, leading to decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and discomfort during sex for many women. However, the role of testosterone in menopausal and postmenopausal women’s sexual function remains significant, with some studies suggesting that a decrease in testosterone levels can also contribute to reduced sexual desire (Davis & Wahlin-Jacobsen, 2015).

Adapting to Hormonal Changes

Adapting to these hormonal changes involves understanding the roles of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in sexual desire. For menopausal symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help balance estrogen and progesterone levels, potentially improving libido and sexual comfort. However, the decision to use HRT should be made with careful consideration and consultation with a healthcare provider (Dennerstein et al., 2002).

Bio-identical Hormones

In adapting to hormonal changes, particularly during menopause, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has gained attention for its potential to closely mimic the body’s natural hormones. According to Stuenkel et al. (2015), bioidentical hormones can offer relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and changes in mood. These hormones are designed to match the molecular structure of human hormones exactly, which some believe may result in a more natural and tolerable form of therapy. However, it’s crucial to consult healthcare providers for personalized advice, as BHRT may not be suitable for everyone and requires careful monitoring to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Holistic Methods

In addition to considering bio-identical hormones, integrating holistic methods into our lives can play a significant role in managing hormonal changes. Holistic methods focus on treating the whole person, emphasizing the connection between mind, body, and spirit. These can include:

  • Diet and Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet rich in phytoestrogens (plant estrogens found in foods like soy, flaxseed, and sesame seeds) may help balance hormones naturally. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, are also beneficial for hormonal health.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help manage symptoms associated with hormonal fluctuations, such as mood swings, weight gain, and sleep disturbances. Exercise releases endorphins, natural mood lifters, which can enhance overall well-being.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques: Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and improve hormonal balance. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques have been shown to positively impact mental health and can alleviate some symptoms of hormonal changes.
  • Herbal Supplements: Certain herbs and supplements, such as black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose oil, are often used to alleviate menopausal symptoms. However, the effectiveness and safety of these supplements can vary, and it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
  • Acupuncture: Some studies suggest that acupuncture can help relieve some menopausal symptoms by promoting natural healing and balancing the body’s energy.
  • Flower Essences: Personal note – I love these as they work with your energy from the outside in – without interfering with any medication you take.

Conclusion

Adapting to hormonal changes involves understanding the scientific basis of these fluctuations and exploring various options, from bio-identical hormones to holistic lifestyle changes. By incorporating these strategies, women can find personalized paths to manage their hormonal health, ensuring a journey through these natural transitions with grace and well-being.

Remember, every woman’s experience with hormonal changes is unique. It’s essential to listen to your body and seek guidance from healthcare professionals to navigate these changes in a way that best suits your individual health needs.

References

  • Bullivant, S. B., Sellergren, S. A., Stern, K., Spencer, N. A., Jacob, S., Mennella, J. A., & McClintock, M. K. (2004). Women’s sexual experience during the menstrual cycle: Identification of the sexual phase by noninvasive measurement of luteinizing hormone. Journal of Sex Research, 41(1), 82-93.
  • Davis, S. R., & Wahlin-Jacobsen, S. (2015). Testosterone in women—the clinical significance. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 3(12), 980-992.
  • Dennerstein, L., Randolph, J., Taffe, J., Dudley, E., & Burger, H. (2002). Hormones, mood, sexuality, and the menopausal transition. Fertility and Sterility, 77(Supplement 4), S42-S48.
  • Leeman, L. M., & Rogers, R. G. (2012). Sex after childbirth: Postpartum sexual function. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 119(3), 647-655.
  • O’Hara, M. W., & Swain, A. M. (1996). Rates and risk of postpartum depression—a meta-analysis. International Review of Psychiatry, 8(1), 37-54.
  • Stuenkel, C. A., Davis, S. R., Gompel, A., Lumsden, M. A., Murad, M. H., Pinkerton, J. V., & Santen, R. J. (2015). Treatment of Symptoms of the Menopause: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 100(11), 3975-4011.

Disclaimer: This in-depth article is meant to offer insights and information. It is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Always consult a healthcare or mental health professional for personal concerns or issues.

CONCLUSION

Thank you for joining me on this episode of “Sexual Wellness for Women.” If you found the information valuable and enjoyed the discussion, I would truly appreciate it if you could take a moment to rate and review the episode. Your feedback helps me reach more people and spread the message of sexual wellness.

Remember, the more listeners we have, the more people I can help have their “ah-ha” moments when it comes to their sexual well-being. So, please share this podcast with your friends, family, and anyone who can benefit from our discussions.

And speaking of helping others, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Wisdom. I share even more tips, tricks, and inspiration on these platforms to support you in your journey towards sexual wellness.

Lastly, I want to remind you that you are a wonderful sexual being. Embrace your uniqueness, take care of yourself, and prioritize your sexual well-being. Remember, pleasure and fulfillment are your birthright.

Thank you for tuning in, and I hope you have a passionate week ahead. I’ll catch you next time for more empowering conversations on “Sexual Wellness for Women.”

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