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Menopause : Hormone Options to Boost Female Libido

Cindy Sutter, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

There's no little blue pill for women.

That means that when women find their libidos flagging, there isn't a quick fix of the sort men can turn to. It doesn't mean, however, that there aren't treatments that can fix certain problems.

Women most often complain about libido issues after childbirth and around menopause, but problems may not be related to a drop in hormone levels, says Dr. Lisa Lepine of Boulder Gynecology.

Lepine says many women feel overwhelmed immediately after the birth of a child as they're dealing with healing from a vaginal birth or caesarian section, not to mention lack of sleep.

"You don't feel very sensual," she says. "It's very normal and probably good. You need that bonding time with the baby."

With menopause, an abrupt drop in estrogen can cause symptoms such as vaginal dryness that make sex uncomfortable.

"If sex is painful, your libido is going to go down," she says.

However, she adds, there's no evidence that the menopausal drop in estrogen leads to lack of sexual desire in and of itself.

Prior to 2002, when a large study linked the use of replacement hormones to a risk of breast cancer, many women used them to alleviate menopause symptoms. After the study, many woman decided not take hormones as a treatment for menopause.

For those who don't want to risk replacement hormones, topical estrogen in the form of an estrogen ring inserted into the vagina, vaginal suppositories or creams can relieve many vaginal symptoms.

"A minimal amount (of estrogen) is absorbed (into the body)," Lepine says.

For women who have already been through menopause, it can take four to six weeks to get estrogen levels back up in vaginal tissues. However, she adds, the estrogen can make a big difference in sexual comfort.

Sometimes topical estrogen can also be appropriate for nursing mothers who can experience a severe enough drop in estrogen to have vaginal symptoms, as well, Lepine says.

She adds that a drop in libido is sometimes simply a reaction to the "craziness of life."

"Libido ebbs and flows throughout a woman's life," she says. "It's not across the board."

(c)2012 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

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