Hormonal Highs and Lows

hormones blog sex with emily

hormones blog sex with emilyHumans are complex. But it’s not our fault! Our bodies are a brew of complicated chemical messengers. These messengers are called hormones.

Hormones affect everything from our mental health to our skin’s appearance, metabolism, fertility, sleep habits to sex drive.

They come in complex combinations and fluctuate over the course of our lifetime.

Hormones play a huge role in your sexual health, especially when it comes to your libido. There will inevitably be hormonal highs and lows in your sex life. Let’s dive in.

We may at times experience dramatic deficiencies or excesses in one hormone or another. These fluctuations result in a wide variety of symptoms. Anxiety and depression are linked to cortisol and serotonin production in the adrenal glands. Do you have complaints about acne? Blame the androgens produced by your adrenal glands.  If you have skin tags, you might have a problem with your pancreas’ production of insulin

Facial hair? Your ovaries might be producing too much testosterone. Hair loss? Possibly a thyroid deficiency. You name it, hormones cause it.


The Teenage Years

For people assigned female at birth, puberty usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 14. During this time, estrogen kicks in to boost reproductive and sexual development. As young women’s bodies begin their menstrual cycles, progesterone takes the role of regulating periods. As levels of estrogen and progesterone increase, the body changes in all the ways those 5th-grade movies told you it would. There’s the budding of breasts, growth-spurts, thicker thighs and hips. Hair growth occurs in new places and changes occur in the skin’s production of oil, hence acne.  

As the ovaries, pituitary and adrenal glands create surges of these reproductive hormones, they are also producing small levels of testosterone. Testosterone is the body’s boss of sex drive and libido. As the body matures, ideas and thoughts of sex naturally follow. Medical studies show that “in young women, testosterone is correlated with increases in sexual interest and sexual activity.” 

The teenage years are the birth of sexual awareness, curiosity and desire. First attractions, fantasies and emotional surges of feelings developing as crushes are all linked to hormonal changes during this time of life. 


Reproductive Years

These are the years that really count when it comes to sex drive. This is where things get really complicated. Everything from work stress, relationship woes, mental wellness, diet, medications, self esteem, history of trauma, alcohol/drug use, sleep deprivation and physical health can contribute to a woman’s desire for sex (or lack thereof). But hormonal health is a major factor in whether a woman is feeling mentally and physically ready to wrestle in the sheets.

The sex-drive hormones are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and all are produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Levels of each of these hormones fluctuate dramatically over the span of a woman’s monthly cycle as well as the course of a woman’s life. From your first period and breast development to pregnancy and nursing to menopause, hormones change


When it comes to  sexual and reproductive development, estrogen is hormone number one. In fact, estrogen drives the major phases of a woman’s biological and physical development . According to Medical News Today, “Having higher levels of estrogen in the body promotes vaginal lubrication and increases sexual desire.”


The ovaries also produce progesterone. , and is integral in preparing the body for and supporting pregnancy. However, when levels of progesterone increase, it can also result in a reduction of sexual desire. Women who have low levels of progesterone typically experience irregular periods, struggles getting pregnant and have higher-risk pregnancies. 


And then there’s testosterone which is typically associated with male virility. Women’s bodies also produce smaller amounts of this hormone. Testosterone affects sexual desire as well as regulation of menstruation. 

Some women struggle so much with a combination of imbalanced hormones and life factors  that they are diagnosed with a low-libido disorder. This is called Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or “HSDD” (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder), a condition that means no- to low-interest in engaging in sexual activity. Symptoms linger for six months or more and include lack of sexual thoughts/fantasies, no arousal response to external stimulation or initiation and a lack of sensation during sex. This condition affects about 10% of adult women, especially pre-menopausal and menopausal women. 



As women age, their production of hormones like estrogen and testosterone decline, so a loss of sexual desire is very normal. A lack of desire to initiate sex, loss of response to sensual stimulation and vaginal dryness are all symptoms of low estrogen and a dip in blood supply to the vagina. There’s also the hot flashes (that I’ve heard described as the heat of a thousand suns suddenly blazing down on only you—out of the blue and without warning), night sweats and depression to add to the menopausal mix. 

The good news is that there are also non-medical options that may work for some to improve the sexual side effects of aging and hormonal changes. Women who struggle with low self esteem may benefit from good old-fashioned talk therapy to help walk through this new stage of life. When it comes to the bedroom, this is a great time to get creative with toys and lube! Regular exercise and self care also improve mental health, and as always, communicate with your partner about all of your thoughts and feelings. Communication is lubrication!

So what does all of this mean when it comes to hormones and your sex drive over the span of your life? The short answer is: everything. The long answer? It totally depends on you, your body, your hormonal makeup, and your age. Simple blood tests can help your doctor (ideally, an endocrinologist) determine an appropriate action plan to improve your hormonal harmony and burning desires in the bedroom. 



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