If your ideal date night involves Netflix and chilling—in the completely literal, fully clothed sense—it can sometimes feel like you’re the only one who could care less about getting laid.
But that’s most definitely not the case. According to Prudence Hall, MD, low libidos are rampant today among women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. “As a gynecologist, I speak about this all day long with women,” says Dr. Hall, who practices in Santa Monica, CA. “It can be a source of very great suffering. Women feel like they’re disappointing their partners and that they’ve lost their feminine radiance.”
Of course, not all sex drives are created equal—Dr. Hall says that everyone naturally craves different amounts of time between the sheets, and if you’re totally cool with having sex on an infrequent basis, there’s no cause for concern.
The problem, she says, comes when your libido tanks suddenly, or when your lack of desire is causing you anxiety or unhappiness. In those cases, there’s probably a reason why you dread the idea of knocking boots—and there are also some steps you can take to get your sexy back for good.
Keep reading for five reasons why you might have a low sex drive and what you can do about it.
1. You’re on the birth control pill
Ironically, the drug that allows us to have sex with abandon can actually keep us from wanting to have sex at all. “The birth control pill can absolutely nuke women’s libidos,” says Dr. Hall. “When young women are on the pill, [many times] their estrogen and testosterone levels fall…and these hormones are very potent stimulators of libido.” She explains that when hormone levels are low the brain usually signals the body to ramp up production, but the pill interrupts this communication. “Some women even come to my office questioning their sexuality, but as soon as they come off the pill, they become interested in making love again,” she says.
2. You’re stressed out
“When we’re under unrelenting or extreme stress, adrenal hormones like cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, and pregnenolone drop—and that hurts the libido,” Dr. Hall says. She’s talking about adrenal fatigue, a phenomenon that occurs after the endocrine system has been over-producing stress hormones for a long period of time. After a while, the adrenals become taxed and their output tanks.
3. You’re depressed (or on antidepressants)
Depression is a sure-fire sex-drive killer, but so are the drugs that treat it. “When people are on antidepressants, it really affects their libido,” says Dr. Hall. She adds that depression is a symptom of many other underlying hormonal imbalances—including those caused by adrenal fatigue, low thyroid, perimenopause, the pill, and vitamin D deficiency—and that when she treats these root causes rather than turning to psychiatric meds, her patients often find their moods (and mojos) get a boost.
The fix: Ask your doctor to check your hormone levels to pinpoint any imbalances that could be causing your depression. Also, Dr. Hall says, take a supplement that contains vitamins D3 and K for mood regulation. (Vitamin K amplifies the cardiovascular and bone-health benefits of the vitamin D.)
4. You’re not eating for energy
“When we talk about sexuality, we’re talking about our overall vitality,” says Dr. Hall. And it goes without saying that diet is a crucial element in creating the stamina to power through your day—and still have enough energy left over for a romp when you get home.
The fix: Dr. Hall says to seek out libido-boosting foods like maca and raw cacao, while ensuring you eat a clean and balanced diet filled with plenty of greens. (And maybe a few of these energizing desserts…because, you know, balance.)
5. Your inner critic is bringing you down
According to Dr. Hall, libido isn’t just a physical thing; it’s also mental. And if your judgmental side gets the best of you—criticizing your body or bedroom skills, perhaps—you won’t be in the free and open headspace that leads to a stellar booty call. “For many women, there’s a voice in their head telling them they’re not good enough,” she says. “We must learn not to pay it too much mind.”
The fix: Self-love practices, like this seven-day reset, can help silence negative noise. Dr. Hall also recommends cultivating a gratitude ritual—so you’re focusing on what you love about your life, rather than what’s not going well—and meditating. “Slow down and allow yourself to feel the stillness around you,” she says. “In this, there’s sensuality.”