Originally published on 11th April 2017 Last updated on 20th September 2019
It shouldn’t be embarrassing to talk about, but it is to many people;
The loss of your libido (sex drive) when you have hypothyroidism.
It’s much more common that you think and, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced it. In fact, chances are, you’re still experiencing it and it might be causing you stress.
Loss Of Libido
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that are needed for every cell and function in our body. They’re needed for regulating metabolism, heart rate, temperature (hands up, who’s cold a lot of the time?) and blood pressure. They even affect our immune system and.. here we go.. our sex drive.
I said it.
Low Sex Drive and Thyroid Problems
Let’s start with the knowledge that T3 is the active thyroid hormone. I specify it as being the active hormone, since T4 is the stored thyroid hormone. T4 must be converted in to T3, but many of us struggle with conversion.
With hypothyroidism, the metabolism is often slowed down, which means that reproductive organs can slow down as well.
T3 just so happens to be vital in the functioning of both the ovaries and testes, whereby not enough available T3 can cause your sex drive to go out of business and diminish.
Remember how I said thyroid hormones are needed for every function and every cell? Yep, even sexual functions and arousal.
And we also know that low thyroid hormones can cause us to feel low in mood, irritable, overly-emotional, fatigued beyond words and achy. Would you always want to have sex when you feel so rubbish?
Here is an analogy taken from the book: You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism
Imagine someone has cooked you your favourite meal. It has everything you could possibly imagine. It’s perfect; the best sirloin steak, the best thin crust pizza, your favourite curry. It’s got everything, every possible accompaniment, every side order and your favourite drink to wash it all down with. Except, you’re not hungry because you feel sick. You’d love to demolish the entire thing, but can’t. It doesn’t appeal to you at all. No matter how much you’d like to eat it, you have no appetite and feel so ill. That is what having a low libido can feel like. It’s not a case of desire, it’s a case of situation. When a chronic illness can make you feel ill everyday, sex may not be the top of your priorities.
I have also covered how it may impact dating, here.
Sex Hormones and Adrenals
As well as thyroid hormones, your adrenal hormones can also be involved. Many people with hypothyroidism also find they have adrenal fatigue (note: it is more accurately referred to as hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction), a separate condition that is identified by having too much or too little of the stress hormone cortisol. However, your adrenal are also involved in the synthesis of DHEA, testosterone, aldosterone, oestrogen and progesterone, other important hormones. Especially important to your libido. All of these share the same precursor, pregnenolone.
The link between your libido and adrenals occurs here. When adrenal fatigue exists in the form of high cortisol, it can start to ‘steal’ more progesterone than is ideal, as it’s the precursor to cortisol, in order to produce more cortisol and maintain high levels. This can lead to oestrogen dominance, where the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone is very off.
If your doctor won’t check your adrenals, you can very simply order testing yourself here and here.
Therefore, if you have a hypothyroidism, or even if you don’t and have a lack of interest in sex, experience erectile dysfunction etc. or related libido issues, then it is crucial that you have a full thyroid panel tested, to include TSH, Free T4 and that all important Free T3. A UK thyroid function test can be ordered here, and an international one from here.
However, it would also be worth looking in to your sex hormone levels, namely oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as well as adrenal function, since abnormal results in these can also cause a lack of interest in sexual behaviour, but also irregular periods, PMS and tension and irritability with your partner (perhaps it even annoys you when they suggest sex).
If your doctor is a conventional doctor, meaning on the NHS in the UK for example, you may find that their ability to order these more comprehensive tests and interpret them is limited, so seeking out a functional practitioner, integrative medicine practitioner or a naturopath, who are usually more experienced in the body’s delicate hormonal balance, may be of more help to you. It was for me.
Hormonal balance is an issue you may well need to consult an expert on. In my own experience, my GP was pretty useless but a naturopath knew exactly what to do after ten minutes of talking with her about my irregular periods and severe PMT.
Medications That Can Affect Libido
There are also some medications that can affect your libido too, and many thyroid patients are taking these.
- Hormonal Contraceptives/Birth Control
- Hypertension drugs/Beta Blockers
If your sex drive is a little absent and you’re taking any of the above, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. There may be other treatment options to these that won’t affect your sex drive.
The good news is, that when low thyroid hormone levels are corrected, as well as sex hormone levels and adrenal dysfunction, the result is often a return to all bodily functions and processes, including your libido.
I understand that it can be difficult when you’re in a relationship with someone who wants to have that level of intimacy with you, but honestly, you’re just too tired to even think about it and when undressing even seems like too much effort, it can strain the relationship. I can understand the stress of someone who wants to show their partner how much they mean to them but their partner just isn’t interested. I understand the concern this causes and worries it generates. It’s only natural.
But talk. Show them this article and the book mentioned below. Explain that it’s no ones fault, but, if anything, you’ve got to work together to correct this. And be patient.
Many thyroid patients feel guilt and shame for not wanting sex.
Related Article: 7 Ways Hypothyroidism Affects Your Appearance
Do have experience with this thyroid symptom?
The book You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, it talks about libido, sex life and intimacy when one half of a couple has hypothyroidism. You don’t have to struggle.
THE FOLLOWING LINK HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY REGAIN.US.
You could also consider whether couples therapy may help you to talk about your concerns and feelings surrounding living with a partner with hypothyroidism, too. See Regain.us for more info here: https://www.regain.us/advice/therapist/couples-therapy-cost-is-it-worth-it/
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
MichelleJuly 6, 2019 at 1:11 pm
OMG now I know why my sex drive sucks. Thanks so much for writing this article you’ve teach me alot.
A OMay 31, 2019 at 4:28 am
I have a partner who is diagonise with hypothyroidism and this has seriously affected her libido. We are both educated in this topic but the problem is that she is not willing to do anything about it. She just tells me to get along with it as it is not her fault. She won’t exercise, change her diet or reduce sugar intake. This is killing our relationship and putting severe strain on me. Most times I suggest sex, she rejects without any feeling and only give in when she thinks yeah, it’s being a while, let me help this guy.
I have tried to understand with her but the thought is how long can I do this for? I love my wife and the thought of cheating on her makes me sick but my body isn’t coping at all. We are both in our late 30s.
Please help how can I deal with this
ConnyFebruary 14, 2019 at 8:58 pm
So sad I didn’t know this…. all of it 10 years ago!!!…. it might have saved my relationship.
So good to read and learn about all of the issues that come with it. I’m on thyroxine since 3 years but still suffer from tiredness, no drive, sluggishness, brain fog, can’t concentrate or focus never mind planing ahead. Got so many aches and pains…… carpal tunnel op done left hand, my right eye is still looking much bigger than the other hair is not what it was and constantly dry skin. Living on my own with two rescue dogs in a static caravan with some issues and no security for the future, earning little so off course life gets stressful sometimes it’s hart looking after yourself alone. Not sure what courses what? Why did my thyroids pack in in the first place???
Thank you for giving me some answers and for sharing and caring
Thank you 😊
Rachel HillFebruary 18, 2019 at 10:42 am
Yes it’s incredibly sad that so many relationships have likely suffered from this information not being widely out there. It’s why I’m working on a new book that talks to our friends, family and partners. And libido will most definitely be covered!
SheronJuly 29, 2018 at 10:45 am
No libido at all. Dryness and redness and painful vaginal area hurts all the time. Help
Rachel HillJuly 29, 2018 at 11:26 am
Hi Sheron, have you checked your sex hormones? This book would probably be really helpful to you – https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2017/01/03/book-review-of-the-hormone-cure-by-sara-gottfried-md/
Phil CastellanoJune 19, 2018 at 2:38 am
It will always be difficult for a relationship to go through if your other partner wants an intimacy in your relationship. Having low libido can be the worst problem there could be. On this site, you’ve completely explained not to let the embarrassment eat you alive.
Rachel HillJune 22, 2018 at 2:11 pm
I’m glad that came across <3