There's been a lot of talk about sex — or more aptly, the lack of sex — over the past 12 months, as the pandemic has left many of us tired, stressed and further away from feeling frisky in the bedroom than ever.
In fact, a survey published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 60% of British adults have not had sex, or masturbated, even once a week during lockdown.
But, with all this time at home and, in theory, more opportunity to 'do it' than ever, why is it that we just don't want to have sex right now?
Dr. Sumera Shahaney, GP and Head of Clinical Operations at Thriva explains that it's likely due to our stress levels during the pandemic, which might be killing off our sex drive — rather than an underlying problem in our relationship.
'When you are stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol,' she explains. 'This usually drops down after the stressful situation has dissipated, however if you are stressed a lot your body keeps producing cortisol. This stops your body making enough other hormones, like oestrogen, that are important for your sex drive because your body prioritises making cortisol over other vital hormones.'
Oestrogen is one of the main female sex hormones. It helps regulate periods, controls the developments of your sex organs during puberty, and thickens the lining of your uterus so it can support a pregnancy. And low levels are well-known to reduce your sex drive.
Our oestrogen levels can dip at any point in our life, but will do so naturally as you age and approach the menopause. However, it isn't the only hormone that could be at play when it comes to your dwindling libido.
'Testosterone has usually been considered a "male" hormone but it is actually essential for women too,' Dr. Shahaney tells us. 'As you age, testosterone levels can drop, which can affect your sex drive. It’s also important that your testosterone levels aren’t too high. High testosterone can indicate PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) which can have unpleasant symptoms that affect your sex drive.'
The thyroid gland — which sits in our neck and produces hormones that control our metabolism, amongst other things — is also known to affect your sex drive when not functioning properly.
'If you think your thyroid gland might be the issue, you can test your thyroid function with a blood test,' Dr. Shahaney explains. 'And there are lots of treatment options available if anything is out of balance.'
But she also stresses the importance of remembering we are all different, and only you know what is normal for you. 'If you aren't happy with your sex drive, or if it’s affecting your relationship, it’s worth looking into.'
Thriva offers home hormone tests that can inform you about any hormonal imbalances that could be affecting your fertility, periods, skin, mood, or weight.
If you are worried about your hormone levels then contact your local GP.
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