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November 13, 2008

Are Your Meds Killing Your Libido?

How pills affect your mojo - and how to get it back, stat!

red and blue pills

Photo Credit: Hugo Chang/iStock Images

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PROBLEM: Pills containing antihistamines can reduce vaginal lubrication. That's because the active ingredients that dry up your sinuses dry up all the body's mucous membranes. Hear that? All of them. This slows your response to stimulation, says Dr. Michael Krychman, director of sexual medicine at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, CA.

SOLUTION: Dryness is a drag, but a runny nose isn't sexy either. If you need the pills, lower the dose of the brand you already take or change the time of day you take 'em. Or just use lube. Lots.

PROBLEM: Antianxiety drugs can make it more difficult to get aroused or to orgasm. "They work by depressing your central nervous system, which makes your body less sexually responsive," says Emily Harrell, a psychotherapist at the Berman Center in Chicago, which treats sexual dysfunction.

SOLUTION: Talk to your doctor about adjusting your medication schedule so that you're not taking your meds in the hours before you have sex.

PROBLEM: Most experts agree that the Pill can sap your sex drive. Conspiracy? No. Just unfortunate science. "Oral contraceptives increase production of a protein that can reduce the amount of testosterone in the blood and may lead to lower libido in some women," says Dr. Krychman.

SOLUTION: Ask your OB/GYN about another Pill. Or consider using an IUD or the NuvaRing, a flexible ring that you insert into your vagina once a month. It emits the hormones estrogen and progestin, just like the Pill, but in lower doses. Otherwise, exercise. It helps boost libido.

PROBLEM: The category of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can lower sex drive, slow sexual response, and make orgasm impossible for some women, says Harrell. As if being down in the dumps in the first place weren't depressing enough.

SOLUTION: Talk to your doc about drugs less likely to lower libido. "Or, with your doctor's supervision, try an antidepressant 'holiday' for a weekend," says Harrell. "Some women find that stopping briefly allows them to have great sex for a few days without any psychological effects."

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