Outsource Sex with Your Husband? Better Yet, Check Your Hormones!

Via Sara Gottfried, MD
on May 26, 2011
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“I would pay someone to have sex with my husband.” There were snorts and yips of laughter. I believe one woman even clapped. from The Sex Drive, Idling in Neutral – The New York Times 4/17/11

I read this article last month and wondered: Is this what we’ve come to? Wives outsourcing sex? Or it physiologic, i.e., is her thyroid wonky? Are her adrenals burned out? Is this woman in her 40s and idle libido is her harbinger of perimenopause?

By no means do I confine this problem to heterosexual couples: there is a phenomenon that cuts across sexual preference, and that is the following — high-libido partners are attracted to low-libido partners. And 70% of the low libido is hormonal in origin. Before you outsource sex with your husband, consider checking your hormonal balance sheet.

Stress, objectively measured as cortisol, has a lot to do with it. Women today are empowered in many ways – we are wildly successful entrepreneurs, in the C-suite, feminizing traditionally male domains. Yet there’s been significant cost hormonally and energetically. Are you feelin’ it?

In longitudinal measures of happiness, women are the scoring the lowest in decades. We’ve never been so preoccupied, stressed out and overwhelmed.  Is our lack of joy linked to low libido? Overdrive trumps our erotic natures?

New data confirms a possible link between career achievement and low sex drive. If you assess stress by measuring cortisol levels at work, women have double the cortisol of men. Not good.

It gets worse. Women head home after work and cortisol climbs still higher, according to John Gray, PhD, in his latest Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book on hormones. Men? Their cortisol settles back down to a normal place once home.

As John puts it, your adrenal glands, which make cortisol, are a hormone factory which “abandons its other product lines” under stress. That means your cortisol bumps up, often above what your cells can handle, and over time you may become starved for other hormones such as thyroid, DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone, estradiol, and melatonin (for more info on the job description of these hormones, click here to my blog).

Hopefully some of you, Dear Readers, are skeptics and are wanting me to show you the data. For instance, does high cortisol really impact your thyroid? Yes, indeed! Want the mechanism? You make me proud. Here it is: high cortisol both slows down conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3), and you make more reverse T3, which blocks the thyroid receptor.

If working women are the most stressed, I hypothesize that stay-at-home moms would have the best libido. Research confirms this. That’s not to say that staying home is stress-free; we just know stay-at-home moms appear to have greater sexual bandwidth.

While we women have fought for and witnessed significant gains across most professional domains, many of my patients feel disempowered when it comes to waning sex drive. They are firestarters in most realms of their lives, they feel shut down and despairing about their lack of interest in sex.

Time to turn that around by talking to your doctor about whether you’re satisfied with your sex life (and not taking the generic, reduce-your-stress dismissal). Track your sex drive along with other metrics of thyroid health – including faint stirrings of desire, fantasies, erotic dreams, receptivity to sex, affection, facility with orgasm.

Perhaps some of you have no problem with libido. Research shows that your true sex drive in partnership is not fully revealed until you’ve been in relationship for at least four years. So if you’re a serial monogamist, usually of two-to-three-year duration, you may not have collected the data on yourself. Time in relationship will reveal your libidinous truth.

Mating in captivity, as Esther Perel aptly put it, is neither easily understood nor amenable to quick fixes. But tweaking your hormones, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can help you make the most of your particular lot.


About Sara Gottfried, MD

I believe in evidence-based ancient wisdom. I believe in eating your leafy greens rather than popping synthetic pills. I believe in Ayurveda and integrative medicine. I believe in botanical therapies over synthetic hormones. I believe you deserve to feel sexy, ripe and delicious. I believe in tending your flame. I believe that proactively managing and optimizing your health is your divine responsibility and a path to personal power. I’m a mother suspicious of processed sugar and a yogini hotly pursuing lithe, lean lusciousness. I’m committed to deep green, organic living. I’m a scholar and a seeker of truth, vitality, hormonal balance, sacred balance, spirituality and divine self-actualization. I’m Sara Gottfried, MD and you can find me at my website or love my Facebook page.


17 Responses to “Outsource Sex with Your Husband? Better Yet, Check Your Hormones!”

  1. Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
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  2. AMO says:

    It's 2011. Don't source articles without links, especially to the NYT, which your readers have to pay to read if they can't get in via a link.

    Elephant needs an editor. Still.

  3. Hi, AMO. Please contact me on Facebook so we can discuss this further.

    For readers here, I responded to this suggestion from AMO this way on Carol Horton's most recent blog:

    I have an Associate Editor, whom I will be announcing in June (plus nine other dedicated volunteers around the world, and many more to come.) Proofreading regular contributors blogs before publication will not on her list of things to do.

    I know others disagree, but in my opinion the standard for an online publication does not need to be as tight as for a print publication. Our standard will continue to improve, because our writers will continue to improve their own proof-reading. But I personally wouldn't spend a dime on a central proof-reader even if I could.

    Elephant Yoga will continue to grow as an all volunteer organization, not because we don't have the money (which we don't, I can assure you), but because we're more like a journalistic Wikipedia than an online New Yorker.

    For those of you who disagree about the proof-reading, take heart. Waylon's on your side, I think!


    Bob W. Yoga Editor

  4. Carla says:

    Dr. Sara Gottfried's article has stuck with me all day. As a 40-something who grew up after women's lib and indoctrinated into the female world of being everything to everyone all the time, I have started to question the sanity…or desire…of it all. I am happily married with a young child and work 2 part-time jobs (as if wifing, mothering and householding weren't enough). Do we need to extra money? Sometimes, yes. It certainly helps. As my huband of 10 years and I delve deeper into the heart of marriage, I'm thinking that keeping him well-sexed and on top of his game just may generate more income for our family than any part-time job (or jobs) that I can squeeze into an already busy schedule. I've watched a good number of intelligent, powerful and amazing women/wives/mothers work themselves into serious illness (thyroid collapse, lupus, shingles, etc.) by trying to do it all. My staying home and being the support system for husband and child just may be the most powerful option for everyone involved. It feels so counter-culture….which may be the clue that it's a good thing!

  5. Sarah says:

    I am glad AMO (and apparently others) have commented about the need for proof reading in Elephant Journal. Elephant claims itself to be a Journal/Magazine not a Blog. Because they do this and charge money (even a small amount), they should strive to reach a higher standard of publication. It is quite frustrating to find spelling and grammatical errors in nearly every blog I read on Elephant. Elephant may choose not to spend money on an editor and as a result, I will choose not to spend money to read more than three articles a day. In the mean time, Elephant should encourage its writers to reread their articles/posts before they click "submit".

  6. Thanks, Carla. You sound like my soul sister. Third generation feminist, but isn't it more about finding the choices that work best for us rather than being all things to all people all the time? How do we live fully and authentically when stretched so thin? It's radical to make choices, albeit radical, that best serve. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
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  8. Rcr says:

    Is that Amanda Palmer?

  9. HMLewis says:

    Since when are high libido people attracted to low libido people? Do you mean that they are generally more attracted to them and choose them more often, or that sometimes it just happens? Where is the proof if so.

    This is why I don't bother to pay for unlimited articles on this site, for one, there are more ads on this site than any other place I have been, and the articles are often not well researched or well articulated. It's like these people are writing personal journals about their feelings and not bothering to make them worthy of public consumption.

  10. Meindabindi says:

    Some interesting ideas here, but it was hard to figure out exactly what this writer was trying to say. After the second go-round this is what I came up with: For sexual satisfaction, stop working outside the home and commit to a long-term monogamous relationship, and if that's not possible, consult a medical professional to "tweak" your hormone levels.

    In addition to the lack of clarity, the lack of links to the other articles and studies that the writer cites is annoying and makes this piece stray into the puff genre.

  11. BoulderBabe says:

    "Elephant Yoga will continue to grow as an all volunteer organization, not because we don't have the money (which we don't, I can assure you), but because we're more like a journalistic Wikipedia than an online New Yorker."

    So…..where is the membership money going? If EJ is a 'volunteer' organization why should readers pay for a membership (no matter how small) when it isn't being used to improve Elephant Journal's quality?

  12. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hormonal imbalance is a symptom, not a cause.

    If you want to really get to the bottom of things without relying on doctors and meds (let's face it, that's what this is about) you need to work on the level of consciousness. If you keep on doing what you've been doing with the exception of some hormone 'supplements' you are simply asking for trouble later on…

  13. Hi. The membership fee, only paid by the 5% of of readers who read more than 3 articles per day, goes to support Waylon, on part-time staff member, and unavoidable expenses.

  14. Ben Ralston says:

    “work on the level of consciousness” means that what we are is consciousness. Your body, emotions, thoughts, feelings, instincts… it’s all just consciousness expressing itself in different ways.
    When there is a problem in the body it’s because there is a dis-balance in the consciousness. It seems simplistic because in truth it is simple.
    And my work is nothing to do with the assumption you make – ‘consciousness *raising*. You cannot raise consciousness. It’s there, and that’s it. Sure, you can raise awareness, but that’s not the same.
    As for the ‘shit happens’ line – that’s just a way to not take responsibility for your experience.
    And i agree that there are many paths, but ultimately if you want to take responsibility for your life, and live fully, you come to the very simple understanding: all is consciousness.

    I didn’t mean to offend. Merely to suggest that there is a more simple, efficient, and safer way than HRT.


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  16. Florence says:

    A million thanks for posting this ifonmration.

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