There are plenty of internet memes about women fending off lusty partners when they’re just not in the mood, but low libido is no laughing matter. Sex drive differs from person to person and can also fluctuate depending on a host of variables, so this isn’t to say everyone should be in the mood 24/7. But if it’s a persistent problem, low libido could be an indication of a health or psychological issue—or could lead to one—so it may be worth seeing your doctor.
What it really comes down to is how each individual woman feels about herself and her libido. "If a woman perceives her sex drive as decreased and it distresses her, this can have a huge impact on her self-image and relationship with her partner," explains Lisa M. Valle, DO, FACOG, OB/GYN, and medical director at Oasis Women’s Sexual Function Center in Santa Monica, California.
On the flip side, as Raquel Dardik, MD, a gynaecologist at NYU Langone Health reassures, "if a woman is happy or not concerned about her libido it is not known to be detrimental to health or quality of life." Here, we checked in with experts to get the low-down on what can cause low libido, how a low sex drive can affect your health and quality of life, and when you need to see your doctor.
1. You've noticed a change and don't know why
Some people just don’t have a high libido, and that’s ok. But if your sex drive used to be higher and something feels off, it’s worth checking in with your doctor.
“Any time there is concern, and it is of some duration and there is not a specific cause they can attribute they should seek medical attention to evaluate for causes that can be treated and receive the best management of psychosocial factors,” advises Dr. Dardik.
There are a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions that can lead to lowered libido, including thyroid disorders, fibroids, fatigue, stress, depression, and more. “Often it stems from a combination of issues and each needs to be addressed,” says Dr. Dardik.
2. You're dissatisfied with your sex drive
If you’re content with your level of sexual desire, then more power to you. But if it’s causing problems—either distress to you or problems in your relationship—then it’s worth consulting a doctor and/or therapist. “If a low sex drive is causing unhappiness or disruption in a woman’s life then it can cause other health problems primarily due to the effects of stress,” explains Dr. Dardik.
3. Sex is painful
If sex hurts, there’s a good chance you’ll want it less. However, this can be a sign that there’s a deeper medical condition at play says Thais Aliabadi, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN, based in Los Angeles, California. “Endometriosis can cause dyspareunia (painful intercourse),” she says. Fibroids may be another culprit, so it’s worth getting checked out.
4. You're on medications
If you’re on prescription medications, they could interfere with your sex drive. “Blood pressure medications can cause low libido,” explains Dr. Aliabadi. She notes that oral contraceptives and antidepressants can have this effect as well. It may be a side effect of many other medications as well, so if it’s something that is bothering you have a talk with your medical provider to see if there’s an alternative medication or other solution.
5. You feel like your hormones are out of whack
A change in libido is very likely related to hormones, and there may be a good reason behind this that your doctor can help you pinpoint. Of course, if you’ve had a baby recently, your hormones are going haywire (possibly even more so if you’re breastfeeding or have just stopped breastfeeding). But if you had what you feel to be a healthy sex drive before having kids, and it hasn’t returned in a reasonable timeframe, it may be worth seeking professional health. Dr. Valle also notes that perimenopausal and menopausal hormonal changes can lead to low libido.
6. You're not happy with your sex life
The main takeaway is that if you are not happy with your sex life, you should feel empowered to do something about it. “I am a big proponent for women becoming proactive in seeking a satisfying sex life,” says Dr. Valle. “Each person’s view on what is a satisfying sex life varies."
Any time you feel bothered or distressed about your perceived decreased libido, seek a doctor with experience in women’s sexual health. Medical issues can be fully assessed and treated appropriately with a subsequent referral to a sex therapist which is also highly encouraged.
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.