It’s no secret that as we age, our hormones change, and what once got us in the mood, may not work anymore. While you may not notice a dramatic difference in your libido when you enter a new decade of life, certain factors can affect your sex drive that are beyond your control.
Changes to our sex drive, desire, interest, and libido can be influenced by various factors based on a person’s current lived experience, past unresolved issues or additional stressors that may be present in life. And since sex drive is such a personal experience, finding the right tools to boost desire and interest may take time, experimentation, and patience at any age. Here’s what to know to get you in the mood as you age.
What causes your sex drive to change?
Hormones play a large role in determining our overall sex drive. Our lifestyles – including how we eat, exercise, sleep, and manage our emotions can affect hormone levels. In addition, as we age, hormone production declines and can impact sexual function, explains certified sexual health clinician Rachael Cabreira, anti-aging specialist and Cliovana practitioner. And it’s perfectly normal.
“Our hormones fluctuate throughout our lifespan, and aging starts approximately at 25 to 30 years old,” says Cabreira. “In addition, as we age, hormone production declines and can impact sexual function.”
And while libido at any age is complex, outside factors like stress, lack of sleep, medications, increased alcohol use, and mental health problems can also cause your sex drive to fluctuate. But with these natural changes, specific trends tend to sync with your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s which may change your sex drive.
Your sex drive in your 30s
Like many bodily drives, your sex drive is likely very strong in your 20s, but as you age closer to 30 you might start to feel a sudden lull or lack of spark that you once had. This sudden decline can be caused by the hormonal changes from your menstrual cycle, and even from pregnancy and childbirth.
According to the latest United States Census Bureau data, the median age women give birth is 30, and during pregnancy and postpartum the female body experiences a major shift in hormones. This can cause vaginal dryness, pelvic floor pain and dysfunction, and an overall lower sex drive.
Another factor is stress. Licensed marriage and family therapist Anastasia Locklin said she has seen how elevated stress levels from raising children, life transitions like job promotions, and the politics of career climbing in corporate environments can take a toll on women and their sex drive in their 30s.
“Another emotional factor that I have seen in my practice personally is that we live in a world where ideals of beauty are often distorted and heavily influenced by social media,” she says. “These feelings of inadequacy can create barriers to feeling fully present and engaged in sexual experiences. We might worry about being judged by our partners or feel self-conscious about our bodies, which can dampen our desire for intimacy.”
Locklin suggests from a therapeutic standpoint, cultivating self-compassion and self-acceptance, and even seeking out therapy which can provide a safe and supportive space to explore those feelings.
“Embracing authenticity, self-love, and nurturing a positive body image are essential steps toward feeling more comfortable and confident in your own skin,” says Locklin. “Which can, in turn, positively impact your overall well-being, emotional health, and even your connection with your own sensuality.”
Your sex drive in your 40s
Significant hormonal changes are common as you transition into your 40s, and this is because most women enter menopause during this time. Perimenopause, the five to 10 year stretch before menopause, is also a time where your ovaries will gradually begin to decrease estrogen production which can alter how sex feels.
“In my practice, it is very common to see women who are starting to feel decreased libido, vaginal dryness, sometimes in directly due to estrogen changes in the vagina, onset of urinary symptoms, UTI’s, and intercourse becoming more uncomfortable due to dryness,” says Cabreira.
She adds that for many women, one of the biggest casualties of these menopause-related problems is the loss of a healthy and fulfilling sex life and losing intimacy with a partner — all of which exacerbate an already difficult emotional time in women’s lives.
But it’s not all bad news. Some women find their sex lives in their 40s can be sexually liberating. By this point they know what they like and don’t like, can feel more empowered to speak up about what they want, and no longer have to worry about getting pregnant, which allows them to explore their own bodies more.
Your sex drive in your 50s
During this post-menopausal stage of life women might experience a very low or very high sex drive. This can be attributed to hormonal fluctuations or the effects of aging on the body.
“Hormonal fluctuations inherent to menopause and the effects of aging on the body’s landscape can subtly influence personal comfort and self-perception,” says Locklin. “Lowered sex drive may be attributed to the ebb and flow of hormones, compounded by unresolved relational tensions and the impact of health-related challenges, resulting in emotional distress and the stress of adapting to life’s shifts.”
Conversely, an elevated sex drive can often stem from a newfound sense of self-assuredness, positive relationship dynamics, individual growth, and the alleviation of certain stressors.
This increase or decrease in sexual desire is perfectly normal, and many women might experience both highs and lows during their 50s, which can be confusing and frustrating. But it’s important to remember that your body will evolve, and to respond with curiosity, not negativity.
“Engaging in patient discourse, nurturing communication, and potentially seeking therapeutic guidance to cultivate deeper emotional intimacy can effectively guide individuals through the nuances of these transformative sexual experiences,’ says Locklin.
Your sex drive in your 60s and beyond
“This has left countless women living their lives without satisfying sex — an essential part of a woman’s overall physical and emotional well-being at any age, and a crucial component to fostering relationship bonds,” says Cabreira.
She adds that sexual ageism is very real. During this stage of life, women can begin to feel like they’re too old to be having sex which can start to shift their own narrative around intimacy, which over time can decrease their sex drive.
But research shows that sex after 60 is beneficial, and perfectly healthy.
A 2019 study from University College London suggested that a higher frequency of sex in older adults is linked to lower rates of cancer, coronary heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. And a 2019 study from Coventry University in England found a direct association between higher frequencies of sex and higher levels of cognitive function in older adults, including memory, flexible thinking, self-control, verbal fluency, and visual-spatial processing.
“Don’t be challenged by age and how its perception can hinder sexual expression and intimate well-being,” says Cabreira. “We are all aging everyday, and we need to embrace that. In addition, you have now lived enough years to experience relationships and know what you don’t want, what you want more of and what you need to be happy.”
When to seek medical advice for low sex drive
It’s perfectly healthy and okay if you’re not always ‘in the mood’. There is no perfect amount of sex drive at any age, and if you experience a dramatic dip, your libido will likely return to normal overtime. But if you find that your sex drive never returns or is beginning to affect your mental health, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider.
Depending on what you are experiencing, your doctor might recommend changing your current medications or having you start one that can help increase your sex drive. If they find that your low sex drive is related to hormonal changes from childbirth or menopause, hormonal treatments might be recommended. And they might even suggest therapy which can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your individual circumstances.
“Therapy can help address concerns related to physical changes, emotional well-being, relationship dynamics, and intimacy, fostering a more satisfying and fulfilling sexual experience,” says Locklin.