Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Young woman with low libido

Friday, January 19, 2007
A problem arises not so much if the amount of sex changes, but if the amount or quality of sex is not okay with one or both partners.

I am 21 years old and I rarely feel like having sex with my partner. I love him so much and I am attracted to him a lot and I really want to fix this problem as it is killing our relationship. In the beginning we were having sex daily and now, after two years, it has slowed to about once a month. He wants to have sex every waking minute and gets upset if I don't feel the same way. I have explained that women need to be charmed and get in the mood. Is there a female Viagra or some sort of herbal medicine out there that I could take? Is there something wrong with me (I am supposed to be young, energetic and in the prime of my life)?

During my years as a doctor I have talked to many young couples about their concerns with mismatching libido. Even though many people assume it is only a problem with older couples, this is certainly not true. Mismatched libidos, where one partner wants sex more than the other, is a very common problem that can occur at any age (even when you are young and energetic). In fact it's pretty rare to find a couple who are totally on the same page all the time when it comes to interest in sex.

Different levels of desire can create problems outside the bedroom. Tension, arguments and anxiety can unravel relationships, so it's worth addressing the problem so that your relationship can be strengthened rather than weakened.

The reasons for loss of libido can be complex. I wish it were as simple as adding a herbal supplement or a tablet but it's not (over-the-counter herbal tablets to improve libido are usually a waste of money). As a relationship develops with time, the sexual side of the relationship usually shifts. While early on the urge may be there to have daily sex, couples rarely maintain that frequency over the long term.

A problem arises not so much if the amount of sex changes, but if the amount or quality of sex is not okay with one or both partners. In other words, there is no ideal amount of sex; it is just whatever a couple feels comfortable with.

Libido in either partner can be affected by a range of situations from fatigue to hormones. Work stress, sexual boredom, anxiety and depression also affect sex drive. Lack of foreplay or time to "get in the mood" can also flatten sexual interest. Even medication side effects can be influential.

No matter what is causing the desire difference, it's worth working on it to improve your relationship. There are various options available to you. Talk to your GP about whether there is any possible medical reason for your shift in libido (this is less likely but needs to be ruled out). A sexual therapist can also be contacted to help both of you improve your intimacy and sex life (your GP may have some suggestions). Also, Dr Rosie King has an excellent book on this topic called Good Loving, Great Sex (Arrow publishing). I can highly recommend Dr Rosie's book as an easy-to-read, practical guide to achieving sexual compatibility.

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