Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! The holiday marked for hearts, flowers, and romance is a great day to talk about one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sex! Sex is one of those categories that, while not taboo, is not openly discussed, and leaves us wondering “Am I normal?” Based on surveys of married couples, 1-2 times per week is average. But remember- this is not a competitive sport! If the amount and type of sex you are having is good for you and your partner then it is “normal” too.
Guess what, that biological clock that’s ticking is no myth, and it’s what sometimes causes the sex drive in females to increase. In your early 20’s, menstrual periods are typically regular. Pre-programmed into us for “propagation of the human race” is the increase of desire around ovulation (when we are most fertile). The hormones inducing ovulation increase both sexual interest and the ability to orgasm. If your sex drive isn’t as high as it usually is, it could be your method of pregnancy protection. Birth control pills decrease testosterone, which for some women can decrease desire. For others, however, the confidence of pregnancy protection gives them freedom and peace of mind which can increase desire.
As life transitions into marriage and stable relationships, a level of confidence is reached. Many women feel more knowledgeable about what they like and can ask for it. The increase in experience increases the orgasm potential. This is why you hear “women have their sexual peak in their 30s”. Many women notice a dramatic increase in sex drive during the second half of pregnancy (after the morning sickness a fatigue resolve!). The skyrocketing progesterone and estrogen levels, the increased blood flow and vulvar swelling, and the intimacy pregnancy brings with a partner can all contribute to an increased desire.
However, if you aren’t feeling particularly frisky post-baby…you are not alone! Immediately after delivery, the same hormones that got you riled up plummet. The baby is putting new demands on the household, adding exhaustion and stress to the mix. Breastfeeding relies on prolactin which further decrease the sex hormones. This leads to thinning of the vaginal tissue which may cause pain and decreased lubrication. So if you aren’t hitting records in the bedroom post-baby, it’s okay.
As ovulation reestablishes itself, the hormones stabilize and desire improves. That being said this is time of navigating parenting styles, partner work load discrepancies (both in and out of the home), self vs family time. Finding this balance is difficult but key in having a healthy relationship and sex drive.
Perimenopause hits on average mid 40’s. The hormonal changes may decrease spontaneous interest but should not decrease the ability to enjoy sex or orgasm. Menopause itself, as defined by 1 year without a period, brings a significant decrease in estrogen and testosterone. This leads to decreased lubrication and blood flow to the vagina. Over the counter lubricants are important during this time, to ensure that there is no pain involved. If these are not enough, then prescription local estrogen replacement can be help tremendously.
So you can see, your sex drive will change as you go through life. In general, women who have a stronger emotional connection with their partner will tend to have an increased desire for sex. As such, intangible aspects of life have a strong effect on your sex life. Relationship issues, stress, fatigue, exercise and self-image are all important contributors to how much you are turned on. As you age, you may be less the “initiator” and may become more “receptive”. And bottom line- if it is okay for you and your partner it’s normal- whether that is daily
or once a year!