Lack or loss of libido is the third most often heard complaint I hear from women in the peri/menopausal transition (hot flashes first, disrupted sleep second). While I am firmly convinced that (bioidentical) hormone balance goes a long way in restoring the libido of both men and women, sexuality is a complex topic and is influenced by physical, emotional, spiritual, and perhaps even financial aspects.
Dr. Diana Hoppe has written a book entitled Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You. She is a board certified OB/GYN practicing in Southern CA. Her book covers a myriad of topics, including:
Eight Reasons Why Sex is Good for You
First thing that struck me in this chapter is the question "What exactly is sex?" You might be surprised. Dr. Hoppe gives us a number of reasons to want our sex lives to be healthy. Best line in the chapter (page 27)--sex is a form of exercise! We all know how important it is to exercise, right? The second part of the chapter discusses ways to keep your libido in top shape, and one of the things I like about this book is that there are tips that apply to most women, not a bunch of crazy ideas about ropes in the bedroom and exotic oils.
What is Libido, and Why Is It Erratic?
Important discussion about the differences in libido in men and women --- not just the level of libido (and I know, insert your own joke here), but a good explanation of how the libido in men and women work. Learn about how a woman's sex drive ebbs and flows with the different stages, of her life, and how hormonal changes can affect her libido.
Our society is so bombarded in the media with what we should think of as the "perfect" body, skin, hair, and oh, yeah, you have to be young! No wonder as we enter our middle (I prefer to think of them as wiser) years, we see ourselves and our changing bodies as dumpy, unattractive, useless, dried out, and so on. Who wants to have sex when you don't even want to be with your own body? A discussion of enabling a healthy self esteem (no, you aren't going to read this and suddenly love yourself, but there are important points in this chapter that will make you think), and how self esteem affects your libido.
His and Her Sex Drives: What Was God Thinking? (love this one!)
I loved this chapter and learned so much! There are truly differences in men and women's brains that affect sexual desire, function, etc. There's even a chart! Why women's brains are more susceptible to depression (and no, it's nothing to do with being stronger or weaker).
Fueling Desire: Aphrodisiacs and Scents that Charge Libido
Foods and scents that may have an effect on female and male sexual desire. Somewhat interesting reading, but likely my least favourite chapter in the book.
The Stress-Libido Connection: is Stress Killing Your Libido?
Stress is a libido killer, probably more so for women than for men. We live in a 24/7, full on busy society, which of course makes stress a bigger problem. At the peri/menopausal life stage, women our age are often dealing with children, elderly parents or other family members, busy careers, changing bodies, huge life changes (children going away to college, empty nest syndrome, having to deal with constantly changing technology), and it wears us out so much that sex gets way, way down on the list of priorities. This is the chapter to be read with a highlighter in hand, and hopefully will make you want to examine your life and see if there aren't some changes/tweaking to be done to reduce your stress levels.
FSD: The Female "Erectile Dysfunction"
Female Sexual Dysfunction is real, it's important, and is far too often blown off by practitioners as an unavoidable consequence of aging. It makes me SO angry that zillions of dollars have been spent on research to come up with Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction drugs, but I am convinced that the FDA does not take female sexual dysfunction seriously. (I am also convinced that bioidentical hormone balance will go a lot further than drugs to treat FSD in women, but that's another subject). In this chapter, Dr. Hoppe discusses different types of sexual dysfunction, causes and treatments. You will come away from this chapter empowered that there is hope if this is a condition that affects you.
Medications and Health Conditions that Can Shelve Your Libido
Wow, this is a subject I know first hand. Before I got my hormones balanced 4 1/2 years ago, I was on 8 different medication. Yep, 8. The combined list of side effects made it a wonder I could function at all (and believe me, I wasn't living functioning would be an optimistic term.) I was able to get off five of those meds in the first two weeks of hormone therapy (under a doctor's supervision----do not EVER discontinue a med without checking with your doctor first), and within 6 months, I was off another two, including the antidepressant I had taken for years. There are a number of medications that can affect your libido, as can any number of health conditions--this is another chapter to read with a highlighter in your hand so you can emphasize important points.
Heart to Heart: Using Communications Resuscitate Your Libido
You'll see a lot of articles out around this time of year (Valentine's Day) about how important communication is to your sex life (well, duh!), but it's true and too often overlooked. Women often blame this as a "male issue" and say that it's the spouse's fault. Some excellent questions listed in this chapter to answer yourself and to share with your partner. One of my favourite parts of this chapter (wish it was a bit longer) is communicating with your doctor.
The book is well laid out, I found it easy to read (there are a few parts that necessarily get a little technical about how the body works, or how chemicals work in the body, but even those are presented more clearly than in many books). There are some helpful charts, and some highlighted areas that cover important points. One of the best parts of the book is that at the end of every chapter, there are questions for reflection---answering the questions will reinforce the important points in each section. Overall, this is a book I feel comfortable recommending to my readers.
I do, however, have one complaint. For a book on libido, I think very little attention was paid to the role of hormone balance in achieving optimal sexual health. Only about 3 pages were devoted to hormone replacement therapy, and Dr. Hoppe obviously is not a fan of bioidenticals. She is a proponent of taking hormones for relief of menopausal symptoms, at the lowest dose and shortest time possible. Although she does not come right out and say so, she is clearly speaking about estrogen replacement only, no mention was made of progesterone or testosterone. "Vaginal health" was only mentioned once specifically-----and I am here to tell you that bioidentical estriol (weakest of the three estrogens) cream has worked well for me in alleviating vaginal atrophy. So, overall, although I do like the book and see it as a good resource for women experiencing libido issues, do not expect to learn much about hormones in this book.
Have a great weekend, everyone, hope you all wore red today in honour of Women's Heart Health Awareness Day. Don't forget (I just had to throw this in here given the topic of today's post) that Valentine's Day is coming up in just 10 days!