By Janice Graham
As you hit one of those big birthdays, you probably worry more about new
wrinkles than about less visible body parts — like your heart. But recent
research has found that each decade of your life is a crossroads, with new
health concerns to worry about. What's more, you need to be aware of these
issues — because your doctor may not be. "Many physicians fail to recognize how
much a woman's risk factors for heart disease evolve over her lifetime," says
"I always thought my husband and I would be making love until we were
90. But I just turned 39 and my libido is nowhere to be found."
If these sexual issues sound familiar, you're clearly not alone. Experts say
that a lack of interest in making love -- even with partners we adore in many
other ways -- is not as unusual as we might think.
"A disappearing sex drive is a common problem -- sometimes in women as
young as her 30's -- and while it hasn't reached epidemic proportions yet, I
think we're only seeing a small portion of the women who are affected,"
says Rebecca Amaru, MD, a gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New
Indeed, in one global study of sexual problems published recently in the
Journal of Impotence Research, up to 43% of women expressed a loss of
sexual desire, beginning as young as age 40. Similarly, up to 36% of women who
were having sex reported they weren't enjoying it.
Understanding Your Sex Drive - Or Lack of It
For some women, low sex drive or even the inability to have sex is linked to
specific problems. According to renowned sex therapist NYU professor Virginia
Sadock, MD, this can include illness, medications, or sometimes even a specific
physical problem related to intercourse.
"It can also be the result of hormonal changes that begin in the 40's. A
lack of lubrication, for example, makes sex less comfortable and over time that
can dampen desire," says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of The Wisdom
of Menopause (Hay House).
When low sex drive is health-related, experts say, the solution is easy.
"For some women all it takes is a little dab of either lubricant or
estrogen cream on the clitoral area. You can't believe how many women suffer,
not realizing how easy this problem is to solve," says Northrup.
But while for some women the answer might be as close as that tube on the
nightstand, Sadock says, for many others the lack of libido is intimately
linked to the complex emotional algorithm that makes up a woman's sex
"If a woman is upset, confused, tired, if she is feeling overworked and
under appreciated, even if she is not consciously aware of some problems within
her relationship, I can promise you that a tube of lubricant is not going to be
enough to make her feel like having sex," says Sadock.