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Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz

Pat Wingert’s enthusiasm for her craft has not waned over her 45-year career in print journalism. A natural leader, Wingert was the editor in chief of The Daily Illini and then segued into the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. As a 25-year correspondent for Newsweek, she delved into a wide range of issues, including politics, social trends and education. Wingert was named a Spencer Fellow at Columbia University, where she spent a year researching and writing about education. She is currently a reporter for the nonprofit Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media.

Barbara Kantrowitz is an award-winning magazine editor and writer. She worked at Newsweek for nearly 25 years in the magazine’s society section, where she wrote and edited dozens of cover stories on health, education, religion and women’s issues. Kantrowitz has also worked at People, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and The Hartford Courant, and has freelanced for many national publications. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she has been an adjunct professor since 2009.

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Decreased Sexual Desire

Ask the Expert


I'm noticing a drop in sexual desire, but I don't want to use hormones, drugs or herbs. Are there any alternatives?


Sexual desire involves a lot more than hormones, as you no doubt came to realize long ago. The quality of your relationships, your upbringing, how you feel about your body, the amount of stress you have, whether you are depressed and how much sleep you're getting all play a huge part. Try to assess how long you've had this problem. Is it constant, or does it come and go? For some perimenopausal women, hormone levels can zigzag from month to month, causing temporary problems that may disappear on their own, only to reappear again. If that's not your situation, make a list of what's going on in your life that may be dampening your enthusiasm for sex. If you have a partner talk openly about your concerns and ask for feedback. Remember that when you don't discuss these things, your partner may misinterpret your lack of interest as rejection.

You can also consider doing some of those things that you should be doing anyway, like losing a little weight, cutting back on fatty foods, or drinking less alcohol. These steps may help a lot. And then there's exercise which increases blood flow throughout your body, including the genital area. If sleep deprivation is on your list, try some relaxation. Take the time and trouble to set up romantic interludes. Rethinking your priorities may mean putting a romantic weekend getaway at the top of your to-do list.

Another option is a consultation with a certified sex therapist or a counselor who can tailor a program to your situation and recommend effective exercises to help you increase intimacy. Some therapists encourage overstressed women (in otherwise healthy relationships) whose libidos are flagging to simply "do it." They believe that even if you're not in the mood, the act of having sex is likely to put you more in the mood. On the other hand, if you think depression, anxiety, or relationship problems are the barrier, consider therapy.

Make sure that your disinterest in drug therapy doesn't keep you from talking about this problem with your doctor. There are lots of medical issues beyond hormones that could be at work here—everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to depression to a serious vitamin or mineral deficiency. After going over your medical history for clues and making sure that none of your medications is the culprit, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for more help. Be sure to bring along some notes so you can discuss what you've tried on your own.

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