Tuesday 6 December 2016

Ask the GP: How to tackle loss of libido and hay fever misery

Nina Byrnes

Published 16/06/2015 | 02:30

A woman's libido can rise or fall due to a number of reasons
A woman's libido can rise or fall due to a number of reasons

Advice from Dr Nina Byrnes on a lowered libido and dealing with hay fever.

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Question: I'm hoping you can help me. I'm 32 and had my first baby a year ago. The thing is my sex drive is gone. It's causing stress in our  relationship. Will my sex drive ever return?

Dr Nina replies: A woman's libido can rise or fall at the beginning or a relationship, around major life events such as pregnancy and motherhood, menopause, illness, or due to certain medications.

Hormones play a strong role in libido. The surge in hormones around ovulation increases a woman's sex drive in order to facilitate pregnancy. Increased circulating oestrogen during pregnancy can often increase a woman's sex drive. Conversely, changes in hormone levels after childbirth, when breastfeeding or during menopause, can significantly reduce intrinsic sex drive.

Physical illness such as arthritis, cancer, neurological conditions and cardiovascular disease may make intercourse more difficult and this may reduce libido.

The mind plays an important role in female sex drive and fatigue, depression or psychological distress will also reduce libido.

Many antidepressants or anti-seizure medicines can also dampen sex drive.

Female contraceptives can be associated with a reduction in libido - many oral contraceptive pills reduce levels of testosterone. This hormone is present in small amounts in women and reducing this may be enough to kill any sex drive you have.

Faced with all the causes, it's a wonder any young mother has a sex drive at all. Discuss this problem with your partner and doctor.

A simple change of contraceptive may help. Switching pills is one option or consider a hormone-free alternative.

Early motherhood is a difficult time - you are exhausted and trying to look after your baby and your partner, when all you really want to do is sleep. Communication is key. Relationship problems will further damage any libido you may have. It is important to find time for yourselves as a couple even when a new baby has arrived.

You will hopefully find you can still enjoy intercourse if you have it, even when you weren't necessarily in the mood. The choice should be yours, however, and you should never feel coerced into having sex.

If none of the above work, help may be on the way. A new drug that is supposed to help libido took a step closer to FDA approval recently.

Question: I get hay fever every summer and it makes me miserable. My eyes are itchy, I sneeze and have a blocked nose. My sense of smell is gone. I have tried all kinds of remedies but none really seems to help. Have you any advice?

Dr Nina replies: It is estimated that 15pc of people suffer from some form of hay fever. The condition causes sneezing, runny or blocked nose, and itchy eyes, ears and throat. Seasonal hay fever can make summer miserable for many people.

Most treatments are better at keeping symptoms at bay rather than treating them, so I advise starting treatment each year before symptoms occur.

Nasal rinses may remove allergens and pollens from your nasal passages, which may help. Your doctor can prescribe you alternative antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops.

Taking all of these medications together often works better than any one of them alone.

The newest therapy on offer is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). There are two treatments available at the moment, both of which protect against grass pollen-based allergies. These need to be prescribed by a specialist and started several months before grass pollens peak. It is too late for you this year, but it is worth considering for the next season.

There are also things you can do at home to help. Avoid cut grass. Stay indoors when the pollen count is over 50.

Keep windows and doors shut. Don't keep fresh flowers in the house. Shower when you come in from outside to remove any pollens from your clothes. Dust regularly with a damp cloth and vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter.

Don't dry your clothes on an outside line. If you do go outside consider placing Vaseline at your nasal opening to catch any pollen that might try and get in. Wear wrap-around sunglasses to keep pollen away from your eyes. Keep car windows closed and consider placing a pollen filter in the car.

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