Review on October 23, 2009
Menopause can be a trying time for women on a psychological and emotional level. The fluctuating hormones brought on by menopause have caused women to compare this lack of control over their bodies to their teenage years. The knowledge that menopause signifies the end of a woman's childbearing years may be difficult to adjust to. Combined with that, the loss of libido that a women experiences during menopause can also be deeply distressing. The 2008 study "Prevalence of Low Sexual Desire and Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in a Nationally Representative Sample of US Women" by Suzanne L. West el al. explores the relationship between menopause and loss of libido.
For the study, menopause is defined as either the cessation of a women's period for twelve months. The removal of both ovaries immediately stops a woman's period and is considered surgical menopause. Loss of libido was defined according to these three standards: 1) a deficiency of sexual fantasies or desire for sexually activity 2) the loss of libido causes deep distress and interferes with a relationship and 3) the loss of libido cannot be explained away by a psychological disorder or the effects of a medication.
The study was conducted across the telephone to a random sample of qualifying women. 2,207 women, from all ends of the menopause spectrum (ages 30 to 70) were interviewed. The study also made sure that these women who were undergoing menopause had been sexually active for the past three months, to be able to predict whether their loss of libido was impacting a partner. 775 women were in the premenopause stage, 552 were undergoing perimenopause and 637 women had experienced surgical menopause. The study adjusted the results for race, ethnicity, education level and smoking status. The study found that loss of libido varied across menopause stage: premenopause women experienced loss of libido at the rate of 26.7%, while it was 52.4% for women experiencing menopause, both naturally and surgically. When it came to women undergoing menopause, 2.3% of women who had undergone surgical menopause felt deep distress over their loss of libido, while only 1.3% who experienced natural menopause felt deeply distressed over their loss of libido.
In conclusion, loss of libido is most prevalent among women who have experienced surgical menopause. Those women who are at the premenopause stage have the least rate of loss of libido and, as to be expected, are the least preoccupied by it. Most significantly, distress about loss of libido seems to be twice as prevalent among women who have undergone surgical menopause than those who experience menopause naturally. More studies should be done to help women who have undergone surgical menopause with their loss of libido.
- JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical AssociationArch Intern Med. 2008;168(13):1441-1449.