Sexual Dysfunction and Medications: Exploring the Link

Hypoactive sexual desire, or low sex drive, is a common form of female sexual dysfunction. In some instances, medication is the reason why the libido is so low.

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is the most common form of female sexual dysfunction. It’s defined as a chronic lack of interest in sexual activity that causes a woman distress — if a woman doesn’t view the lack of sexual interest as a problem, then it isn’t one.
Many physiological factors can dampen the libido’s fire. Menopause or a chronic medical condition can lead to physical changes that can affect a woman’s sex drive or lead to discomfort or decreased pleasure during sex.

And so can some drugs.

Drugs (and an Herb) That Affect Libido
Certain medications can interfere with the balance of hormones and transmission of chemical messengers in the brain, causing problems with libido and a woman’s ability to achieve orgasm. A few common medications can cause hypoactive sexual desire disorder. These include:

Birth control pills.
Chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs
Acne medications.
Saw palmetto.

Women and Sexual Dysfunction: Replacing Medications

Women who experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder due to medications can try switching medications or finding alternative treatments. If the problem stems from oral contraceptives, the woman can consider switching to other forms of birth control such as an intrauterine device, says Berman.

If antidepressants are the cause, you may want to discuss with your doctor the possibility of reducing your dose or even consider looking for other causes of your mood disorder. (One often-overlooked cause of depression is hormonal imbalance, says Berman.) You can also consider switching to a more dopamine-driven drug, which is less likely to cause hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
As an alternative to hypertensive drugs that may cause hypoactive sexual desire disorder, you may want to consider calcium channel blockers or ACE inhibitors. “These drugs are less likely to have a negative impact on libido,” says Berman.
If you have hypoactive sexual desire disorder, discuss your options with your doctor. If medications are causing your hypoactive sexual desire disorder, you have options that can help you achieve a more satisfactory sex life.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Sexual Health Center.


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