Female sex hormones and sex

Low levels of sex hormones can affect your sex life and relationships. Find out what might help. 

Cancer treatments can lower the levs of sex hormones in your body. These hormones are oestrogen and progesterone in women and testosterone in men. 

Loss of interest in sex (libido)

Sex hormones have an important role in your sex drive. Interest in sex can be affected by:

  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • stress or anxiety 
  • loss of confidence or self esteem 
  • changes to how your body feels, such as vaginal dryness 

Talking to your partner about how you feel might help. You may not feel like having sex for a while. Hugging, cuddling, and kissing can be comforting. If you feel more relaxed, you may enjoy physical contact. 

Some anti depressant medication can lower your sex drive. It's very important to talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking them. Stopping anti depressants suddenly can cause side effects.

Vaginal dryness

Low oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness and itching. This is called urogenitary atrophy.

This is very uncomfortable and makes sex painful. Oestrogen helps to maintain the firmness of the wall of the vagina. Without oestrogen the vagina and vulva may become thinner, more easily damaged, and less elastic. The tissues make less of the secretions that help keep the vagina healthy.

Using a lubricant such as KY jelly might be helpful. 

  • Practical clinical guidelines for assessing and managing menopausal symptoms after breast cancer

    M Hickey and others 

    Annals of oncology 2008 Oct;19(10):1669-80

  • Should urogenital atrophy in breast cancer survivors be treated with topical estrogens

    M Trinkaus and others 

    Oncologist. 2008 Mar;13(3):222-31

Last reviewed: 
17 Aug 2016

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