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.
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.
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. Testing Reverse T3 can also be incredibly useful. 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.
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.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.