Why Is My Sex Drive Always So Up and Down?

It feels like my libido is all over the place during the month. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something intense and passionate, and sometimes I need my partner to be more emotional and sweet. Then there are times I don’t want him to touch me at all! Why is my sex drive so inconsistent, and how can I feel satisfied throughout the month?

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, then it will probably come as no surprise to you that behind just about every physical, emotional, and psychological fluctuation are — surprise! — hormones! The libido is certainly no exception, and at various points in your cycle, your hormonal levels will signal your body and mind to crave very different kinds of affection and sexual pleasure. But no matter where you are in your cycle, I want to make one thing clear: Sex is super important!

When we’re rushing around trying to do our best in all areas of life, sex is often the first thing to get majorly de-prioritized. I think that’s a real shame, as sex is not only fun, it’s also great for your health! In fact, regular sex plays an important part in regulating your cycle and sustaining your fertility.

When you are really honoring your hormones and paying attention to where you are in your cycle, you might notice that your feelings about your partner, your energy levels, and your interest in sex changes depending on which phase you are in at that time. This is completely natural, and it actually makes perfect sense when you understand what’s happening with your endocrine system.

In the first half of your cycle, you will feel a growing sense of desire that spikes around ovulation. This is because your estrogen and testosterone levels are ascending to their highest peaks, revving up your sex drive. Evolutionarily, this makes a lot of sense: Your body is at its most fertile right at ovulation. Then, in the second half of your cycle, the closer you get to your period, the less interested in sex you will feel. That said, with my tips for engaging in the right sex for your phase, you might find yourself with a much larger window of high desire.

It’s also important, however to remember that it’s totally OK to simply not be in the mood sometimes! It’s totally fine to want to take a break — just let your body be your guide.

To truly make the most of your hormonal peaks and valleys, I recommend (and personally subscribe to) the sex schedule below. If you want more detail on this, check out my book WomanCode. Of course, your libido is uniquely yours, so if your mojo doesn’t quite match up to the timeline below, don’t worry; just pay attention to what feels good to you. But if you find your libido ebbs and flows with your cycle, see if syncing your sex life accordingly works wonders:

Right after your period, your testosterone is at its lowest, but estrogen begins to increase, so you’ll want your partner to give you ample attention. Now is the time for a ton of touching, massaging, and non-penetrative foreplay to get you in the mood. This is also a good time of the month to try new things and experiment, so carve out time for some extended and creative foreplay sessions.

If you’re feeling particularly frisky during this time, there’s a good reason why: Your testosterone and estrogen levels have reached their peak. You’re at your most fertile and your body is primed to procreate (so make sure to stay safe if you don’t want a baby!). You won’t need a lot of foreplay during this extra sexy time, so take advantage of the moment and consider spontaneous quickies fair game.

The first half of this phase still has the higher estrogen and testosterone that make you feel in the mood. The closer you get to your period, however, the lower your testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone levels become. This means you’ll need extra stimulation to climax, so this is the time to bring any toys or extra tools into the bedroom to help increase sensation. Or try out my techniques for increasing arousal solo or with a partner.

Some women prefer to abstain from sex during the first few days of their period, and that’s perfectly fine. But it’s also OK to go ahead and get it on. Some women even feel extra turned on during this week because of the increased fluid pressure in the pelvic and pubic area. An added bonus if you suffer from period-related cramps or migraines: Solo or partnered orgasms can really help relieve pain.

If, however, you feel like your sex drive is missing ALL of the time, then chances are your hormones need some rebalancing. Your testosterone is being suppressed by high levels of cortisol due to stress. Your thyroid could be sluggish. And you could be missing key micronutrients that help make testosterone. If your period is irregular or problematic, then, of course, you may not feel the benefits of the testosterone/estrogen surge. Finally, if you’re on the pill, you won’t feel any of the above as the hormone balance in the pill mimics the hormones of pregnancy and your libido can actually be permanently suppressed.  

If you’ve noticed more distance between cycles, that some periods are light and some are super heavy, that your sex drive is flat, you’re more moody in general (anxious, depressed, or both), and especially if you’re in your mid 30’s and up, your hormones may be aging faster than they should. But you can start reversing this process by adding one key micronutrient that you’re likely missing. Get your free report: The Magic Missing Micronutrient to Get Your Sexy Back.

Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, creator of the WomanCode System, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She’s also presented at TEDx, [email protected], Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit.

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