Ask Gerda: What Happens to Libido as We Age?

Photo courtesy of Marley Kate/The Licensing Project

Ask Gerda: What Happens to Libido as We Age?

Ask Gerda: What Happens to
Libido as We Age?

Ask Gerda

Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. You’ll find some of her deep dives into health conditions in our growing library of articles called goop PhD. You can send your own questions for Gerda to [email protected].

Dear goop, My libido seems to be less predictable than it used to be, and it’s hard to tell why. Is it inevitable that my libido decreases as I get older? —Melissa

Hi, Melissa. Libido going down as age goes up is what many women experience. This isn’t a problem if we are happy with how we feel. But some of us don’t want to give up sexual pleasure—we want to be empowered to experience it more (and better) than ever. Which is of course different from trying to maintain an active sex life primarily to please a partner—some researchers call this a “handmaid” frame of mind. That’s a topic for another article, though; here, let’s talk about what we can do to feel supported in seeking pleasure for ourselves.

Some of the factors that contribute to lower libido include vaginal dryness, vaginal narrowing, pain, stress, fatigue, poor body image, and erectile dysfunction in partners. Bladder leaks don’t help either. These factors may become more common as we age, but they can be addressed. Low libido is not a necessary consequence of getting older, and sex can continue to be an important part of life whether it’s solo or with a partner.

Even more so in this case than for other health concerns I write about, there are good, practical ways to adapt to changing sexual desires and sexual function. Traditional and conventional medicine and inventive technology have provided us with products that can make a big difference. And if you haven’t yet made a habit of asking for the kind of touching and toys and lube that you want and need, now is a good time. Being less shy and less fearful is one of the pluses of maturity.

We can’t talk about libido without talking about estrogen. Levels of estrogen start to go down during perimenopause, so don’t be surprised if you start experiencing related changes in your late thirties. (There’s more info on this subject in the goop PhD article on menopause.) We can attribute changes in our vulva, vagina, pelvic floor, and libido to low estrogen levels, and estrogen treatment can help address these issues. Fluctuating testosterone levels also likely contribute, and supplemental testosterone can enhance arousal and sexual fantasies. However, many women and their doctors are reluctant to take and prescribe hormones because of side effects. The safety profiles of the different forms of supplemental hormones have yet to be fully sorted out.

Surprise—we’re not the first people to seek alternative ways to boost libido. Traditional medical practices have identified three herbs that are particularly helpful: fenugreek, shatavari, and saffron. The product development team at goop has outdone itself this time with a supplement called DTF that combines all of these botanicals. (If you don’t know what DTF stands for, you’re not alone. I had to look it up. It’s down to f*ck.)

  1. Fenugreek comes to us from Asia, the Mediterranean, and Ayurvedic medicine. DTF contains the clinically studied dose of Libifem®, a fenugreek extract with unique bioactive components called fenusides. This extract has been demonstrated to support healthy sexual arousal and desire, and in addition, menopausal women have reported improvements in menopausal symptoms when using Libifem. It’s not a random coincidence that fenugreek is used for sexual health; it seems that this herb may induce some of the same gene responses as estrogen.*

    Shatavari comes to us from Ayurvedic traditional medicine, where it’s used to support female reproductive health and healthy hormonal balance. It is considered adaptogenic, which means that instead of narrowly focusing on one body part, it’s thought to help balance and rejuvenate whole-body systems.*

    And saffron comes to us from Persian traditional medicine. DTF contains the dose used in clinical studies that have validated saffron’s use for mood support.*

  2. goop Wellness DTF goop, $55/$50 with subscription
    goop Wellness DTF goop, $55/$50
    with subscription
  3. If you’d prefer to try shatavari on its own, Organic India makes a high-quality shatavari extract. This herb is recommended at any stage of a woman’s life.*

  4. goop Wellness DTF goop, $55/$50 with subscription
    Organic India SHATAVARI goop, $22
  1. Confidence that your bladder won’t leak during sex can go a long way toward promoting relaxation and enjoyment. More than one in three women—of all ages—experience urine leaking upon exertion or coughing. A new device has been clinically demonstrated to reduce this kind of bladder leak, even in women who have not responded to physical therapy for the pelvic floor. Pull on the INNOVO shorts, hit go, and they’ll give you thirty minutes of perfect pelvic floor contractions for healthy bladder control.

  2. Innovo INNOVO KIT goop, $450
    Innovo INNOVO KIT goop, $450
  1. My experience is that work and personal responsibilities just keep expanding every year. Blended families add to life’s richness but also to demands on time and energy. I suspect that on top of whatever is going on physiologically, you could be taking less and less time for yourself. A little ritual to help you slow down: Smooth a small amount of Vagus Nerve Oil on your feet or neck or wherever your nerve endings respond the most.

  2. Thought Sanctuary VAGUS NERVE OIL goop, $48
    Thought Sanctuary VAGUS NERVE OIL goop, $48
  3. A good lube and selection of vibrators are so helpful at any age but even more so as we get older. Tabu’s kit is designed to be part of a sexual-wellness routine to promote healthy vaginal and vulval tissues. The massager uses warmth to enhance blood circulation, which, incidentally, is essential for pleasure. And the water-based lubricant contains moisturizing hyaluronic acid with aloe leaf, passionflower, and peony root. Use regularly.

  4. Tabu THE KIT goop, $135
    Tabu THE KIT goop, $135
  5. Pulse gives us another way to take advantage of the powerfully pleasing benefits of warmth. Previously we’ve struggled with ways to warm massage oil and lube, but the product developers must have read our minds because they’ve solved that problem. Just place your hand in the sleek warmer and you’ll receive a dollop of warm massage oil with safflower, sunflower, grape-seed, and jojoba oils. Easily switch pods for a dollop of water-based lube with chia seed extract that’s smooth but not sticky.

  6. Pulse PULSE WARMER goop, $199
    Pulse PULSE WARMER goop, $199
    Pulse H2OH! PERSONAL LUBRICANT goop, $30
  9. Libido comes from the brain and from nerve endings all over the body. Make sure you are getting enough of the B vitamins that support the production of neurotransmitters—they’ll also support healthy energy levels. If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, goop’s daily multivitamin Madame Ovary is a good way to get vitamins and other nutrients and to provide nutritional support for mild hot flashes and stress-related fatigue.*

  10. goop Wellness MADAME OVARY goop, $95/$75 with subscription
    goop Wellness MADAME OVARY goop, $90/$75
    with subscription

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Libifem® is a registered trademark of Gencor.