A sparkling sex life is something we’d all like to have, regardless of age. But as today’s leading physicians and sex researchers are discovering, there’s a profound link between the female libido and the constantly fluctuating hormones her ovaries produce. (Here’s how to balance your hormones and lose up to 15 pounds in just 3 weeks!)
Find out how controlling your body’s unique chemical balance—during every decade of life—can make the difference between a sex life that’s so-so and one that soars.
IN YOUR 20s
The AdvantagesLoving Sex: The Book of Joy and Passion
According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 20-somethings are less orgasmic than older women. “Despite the hormone swirl, women in their 20s may not yet have the confidence to ask for what they want in bed, so they’re less satisfied,” says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Also, a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine confirms that “the pill” causes a decrease in sex hormones, especially testosterone, and so could lower sex drive.
IN YOUR 30s
“A woman in her 30s may well find herself at an emotional sexual peak,” Berman says. “She’s clear about what she wants, even though estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone begin to fluctuate and drop off during this decade.” More good news: studies have shown that as women age, they become less anxious about their physical “flaws,” which eases anxiety in the bedroom. “The key,” Northrup says, “is to think of yourself as a sexy, attractive woman, regardless of hormone tempo.”
After childbirth, testosterone falls to extremely low levels. For nursing moms, the hormone prolactin can suppress ovulation, as well as the production of estrogen and progesterone. All of that combines to make the thought of sex a big fat snore. One suggestion? Masturbation. Regardless of age, just using your equipment will improve circulation and help balance your hormones.
IN YOUR 40s
“By 40, a woman’s testosterone levels will be about half the level they were at 25,” says Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, an endocrinologist and chair of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. And yes, that drop affects libido. For the average woman who enters perimenopause in her late 40s, fluctuating estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels may put a damper on bedroom bliss.
To smooth things out, Steven R. Goldstein, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, prescribes low-dose birth control pills for many of his patients “to turn off the ovaries’ erratic estrogen production and replace it with a small, consistent influx of estrogen every day.” Lubricant and estrogen therapies can also help.
IN YOUR 50s
“The middle years, between 50 and 65, constitute the apex of adult life,” says author Gail Sheehy in Sex and the Seasoned Woman. “For women, the passage to be made is from pleasing to mastery.” Mastery is right: the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found 71% of 50-somethings said their last sexual experience resulted in an orgasm.
Because of dramatically reduced testosterone and virtually nonexistent estrogen, sex drive drops after menopause. Physicians often prescribe very small off-label doses of testosterone along with menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT) to boost libido. Also, the more body fat you have, the less libido-boosting “free-floating” testosterone you have. If you’re obese, losing 10% of your total weight can do wonders for your sex drive, found researchers at Duke University Medical Center. Multiple studies have also shown that after just 20 minutes of exercise, blood flow to the genitals increases, resulting in more lubrication, better arousal, and better orgasms.