Hormones. Ick. They get blamed for so much–they’re like our own little personal punching bag. And it’s easy to think that all the jokes about hormones and libido are just exaggerations.
But today I thought we’d start a fun 3-day series to look at how hormones really do affect libido, arousal, and everything in between, because I think if we understood that better, we’d have better sex lives.
I know sometimes we’ll be making love and it just won’t be working for me. My mind will wander more than usual; I can’t get aroused; and no matter how hard I try nothing seems to happen. Then other nights it’s super easy! And on those difficult nights I often go through some self-loathing and dangerous introspection: am I too stressed? Too busy? Is something wrong with me? Am I getting too old?
When if I just looked at a calendar it would all make sense!
So here we go: 10 ways that hormones play havoc with your libido:
1. Hormones can make your libido peak and plummet throughout the month
Here’s how your cycle works: Day 1 will be the first day of your period. Usually around Day 14 you ovulate (release an egg). Then two weeks later, on Day 28, your period starts. Now, most people aren’t regular 28 days, like clockwork, but that’s it in a nutshell.
Progesterone makes your libido lower. And when does your body produce progesterone? During the luteal phase of your cycle, which starts on ovulation day and goes until seven days before your period starts. On the other hand, the seven days before your period your hormones all churn up which cause some of us to feel in the mood again. Then right before ovulation you also get a burst that makes arousal easier.
So, in general, we’re raring to go on days 24-27, and then again from Days 6-14, with major peaks around Days 11-14.
But on Day 20 you’re likely wondering what all the fuss is about.
2. It’s Testosterone that boosts our libido
Just like men, we also produce testosterone, and it’s testosterone that makes us want to jump him!
Testosterone starts rising a few days before your period, and peaks at ovulation day.
3. Right before your period hormones may make you moody–but still “in the mood”!
It’s a misnomer that right before our periods we’re not in the mood at all. Some women (especially those with bad PMS) are like that, but many of us are actually easily aroused–we’re just also sad.
And that’s the kicker.
Estrogen, pregosterone, and testosterone tend to be lower and we get “the blues”. This is the time of your month to pamper yourself with chocolate or a bubble bath to boost those serotonin levels and make us “happier”. But many of us start to be raring to go, even if we’re stomping around the house at the same time.
Here’s how all three of these points work together (with thanks here for the idea–he has lots of tips for husbands on dealing with this):
4. Lubrication is often hardest right before your period
Even if you’re one of those women who might be “in the mood” before your period, lubrication is often hardest during these few days. So if you don’t get “wet”, don’t assume that you’re not aroused or not into it. It could just be hormones! Pull out some lubricant and have fun!
5. Orgasm is often hardest right after ovulation
When you make love during the luteal phase (right after ovulation; the red part up above), you may find it hard to achieve orgasm.
So if you and your husband are really working on helping you to reach orgasm during intercourse, and it’s been a struggle, use these days just to have fun and explore with no pressure, or it could just be an added stress!
And if you usually do achieve orgasm, but don’t during these days, don’t think there’s something wrong with you–or your relationship! It’s likely just your cycle.
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6. Feeling powerful can overcome some of the hormone blues
During the luteal phase (the red part), it’s harder to get aroused, harder to achieve orgasm, and harder to feel in the mood in general.
Plus you’ve often got anger issues kicking around!
So what do you do? Don’t forego sex altogether–that’s a long time for a guy to wait. Just maybe take those days as the days where you feel powerful! Initiate sex but then play “let me see how fast I can bring him to climax!”, or “let’s hear it for the quickie!”
If you feel powerful and see how much you can turn him on, this can counteract some of those blues and get you ready for the next phase that’s coming!
Of course, with a little more time to relax first and a little more attention paid to how she feels, sex can still be fun during this phase. But if it’s not, trying to make her turned on can just make her angry. Figure out how you usually react in this week, and then decide, “will we tend to keep it slow and pay more attention”, or “will this be the time for me to just be powerful”?
7. Hormones may make you”in the mood” during your period
A lot of women wonder, “is there something wrong with me if I’m hot and bothered during my period”? Nope. It’s just hormones!
About 20% of women still continue sexual activity during their period, while 80% do not. Much depends on the level of flow, cramping, arousal, etc.
Personally, I don’t think any woman should feel as if she has to do anything sexual during those days, because sex should be mutual. But if you’re someone who wants to, and your husband agrees, it’s really between the two of you!
8. The Pill can cause your libido to crater by messing with your hormones
I’m going to write a longer post on this in the not-too-distant future, but many women find that The Pill kills your libido because it gets rid of those “peaks” in arousal and replaces them all with “troughs”. Here’s part of an email a reader recently sent to me:
I’ve been married for 21 years now. From the time we got married I could never experience orgasm and for probably 10 years I often was left feeling frustrated and upset. It made sex really difficult and for many years it became infrequent because it was just upsetting for both of us. It was not for lack of trying to fix the issue or because my husband was particularly inattentive it just didn’t happen. It was really the most awful thing.
When we had children after 8 years of marriage I changed contraceptive from the pill to Implanon which was a new thing on the market and super easy to use… After child #1 I really had absolutely no desire at all for sex. I put it down to having a new baby and being tired etc. I honestly felt that if I never had sex again in my life I really couldn’t have cared less. After about a year we decided to try for child #2 and I had the Implanon removed. It sounds crazy but within a week, I kid you not!!!, I suddenly felt like a depression had lifted off me and I seriously wanted to have sex all the time. I experienced my first orgasm not long after and 10 years down the track have not looked back. I honestly believe that the effect of contraception made all the difference.
I experienced something very similar to this reader. I also was really, really moody on the Pill. I’ll write more about it later, but I wanted you all to be aware that if your libido is low, it may be your contraception method.
9. For some, menopause kills libido
When you hit menopause, for many women libido plummets and almost disappears. I’ve heard some women tell me, “it’s almost as if I lost all feeling from the waist down.”
If you’re going through this, please talk to your doctor. There are hormone replacements available, some very natural, that can help. And if the first thing you try doesn’t work, keep trying something else! We’re all made differently, and this is too important a part of your life to lose.
10. For others, menopause boosts libido
Here’s the good news, though: other women have told me that menopause was the best thing that ever happened to them! We don’t all react the same way, so if you’re in your forties, don’t panic!
One thing that does happen regardless of your arousal, though, is that lubrication because more difficult. That’s okay! Buy some lubricant and have fun!
So there you go–how hormones affect our libido and our arousal levels throughout the month. Tomorrow I’ll be talking more about lubrication, and on Thursday we’ll look at how to keep track of our hormones, so we’re not thrown through a loop when grumpiness (or lack of lubrication) suddenly descends!