From avoiding STDs to mind blowing Os – a satisfying sex life is an important component of overall wellness. On day four of Women’s Health Week, we’re covering in the ins and outs and ins of sexual health.

It’s completely normal for your inclination towards intercourse to fluctuate but if your libido has hit a serious lull it might be time to take action. Here are some of the physical, psychological and lifestyle factors that can be behind a diminished sex drive and how to combat them. 

1. Stress

From an overwhelming workload to a ridiculous amount of extracurricular commitments – when life is slamming you, your partner probably isn’t. Stress is a normal and natural human response in small doses, but when you’re struggling to cope it can have major impacts on your body, mind and subsequently your sex drive.

“If you’re too stressed, you can’t get into the moment,” Doctor Lauren Streicher told Women’s Health. “For men, sexual activity seems to be a stress reducer, but for women it’s not. They have to deal with their stress first.”

Easier said than done though, right? Pinpointing the biggest stressors in your life and working to manage them is essential, whether it involve cutting overtime at work, turning off emails when you get home, and saying no to unnecessary social engagements. Sometimes those factors are out of our control so there are other techniques that can help. A number of studies have proven that practising meditation, regular exercise and a healthy diet can significantly reduce stress.

2. Pain

Understandably, when sex doesn’t feel good, you don’t feel like doing it. Pain during sex affects around one in five Australian women and can be put down to a number of things including endometriosis, vaginismus, pelvic inflammatory disease, trauma, STDs, dryness and a lack of foreplay, to name a few factors. Its effect goes far beyond the physical, significantly impacting relationships, self esteem and mental health.

If extra stimulation and additional lubrication aren’t working, it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s behind the pain you experience during sex so speak to a medical professional about your concerns.

3. Medication

When you’re in a hot new relationship and you’re having all of the sex, a sensible option is to start taking an oral contraceptive. Nek minute, your sex drive is officially MIA. Yep, unfortunately some contraceptives can lessen your libido as they reduce the amount of free testosterone floating around and impact the desire-boosting hormonal changes that happen around ovulation.

And the pill isn’t the only medication that can squash your sex drive – antidepressants, antihistamines and some pain relievers can also have an effect.

Speak to your doctor about your options.

4. Lifestyle

Have your dinners become less wholesome more whole pizza? Is your exercise routine officially nonexistent? Are you finishing a busy day by polishing off a glass of pinot (or two, or three)? If your healthy habits have slipped of late, it could be causing your sex drive to take a dive.

“Too much alcohol can interfere with your performance and make it hard for your body to respond sexually, resulting in issues like erectile dysfunction and a decreased ability to orgasm,” says doctor Josh Axe.

While you’re cutting back on the booze, boost the frequencies of your sweat sessions. Studies have found that exercise can increase libido, even in women whose sex drives have been lowered by antidepressants.

5. Familiarity

During the honeymoon phase your sex life is hot and heavy but after a while extras ZZZs trump extra Os by the time you hit the hay. Even if your relationship is solid, it’s normal for the novelty to wear off.

“It’s been well documented that the more sex you have, the more you want it, but taking those first few steps isn’t always easy,” Lovehoney sex and relationship expert Sammi Cole says. “So, rather than having sex with your partner even when you don’t feel like it, the best way to start upping your libido is on your own.”

Masturbation allows you to do as much or as little as you like, climax in your own time, and rediscover physical pleasure without the pressure of a partner being present.

Sammi also suggest taking the time to mosey down memory lane.

“Arousal and the desire for sex originate in the brain, not in the genitals,” Sammi says. “So, in order to feel like you want sex, you first have to figure out what turns you on mentally. This could be a memory, a specific sexual fantasy, a certain smell, a visual stimulus, or hearing your partner describe a fantasy to you. If you’re not sure, now is the time to experiment!”

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