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Sex after 40? Tips to keep heat between the sheets

Want to prevent a low libido? Dr. Laura Berman shares smart and simple advice to help naturally boost your sex drive.

Many women experience a decline in their libido when they enter their 40s; although this decline is not uncommon, or a cause for concern, all women should invest in a happy and satisfying sex life. Dr. Laura Berman shares five things you can do to boost your libido naturally:

Make sure your sex chemicals are on board
Women in their 40s often experience a drop in libido and an increase in vaginal dryness (as well as sleep disturbances). Medications and hormonal changes at this age can wreak havoc on your sex life. Be sure to check your medicine cabinet, get your hormones tested, and discuss your options with your doctor. Consider estrogen levels and testosterone levels because both start to drop in your 40s and beyond, so you may start experiencing hormonal symptoms.

In addition, we now know that dopamine plays a key role in sexual inspiration. Once you are in a stable — perhaps even predictable — relationship, the dopamine center of the brain quiets. Doing novel and exciting things solo or with your partner will stimulate dopamine production (Think vacations to new and different places, rock wall-climbing, roller-coaster rides and more!)

Pay attention to stressThe Hurried Woman Syndrome is an epidemic in our country. Women are trying to do it all, whether they are stay-at-home moms or working moms. The average married woman spends 20-30 hours per week on housekeeping, child care, activities, committees, bake sales and caring for her husband's needs. There's too much on our plates! When a woman is stressed, she goes into the “tend and befriend” response (as opposed to the male fight-or-flight response). When this happens, a woman's oxytocin levels also rise. Oxytocin is the “chemical of attachment,” and it is the chemical that makes us want to nest and curl up on the couch with the people we love. The problem is that when oxytocin rises, a protein in the blood called SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) rises as well. SHBG bonds testosterone to the cells and makes it unavailable for the body to use for libido and sexual response! (Ergo, stress leads to oxytocin, which leads to SHBG, which leads to no libido!)

Pen energy-building activities into your calendarWomen expend energy all day long on kids, work, home, husband, in-laws, parents, etc. Unless she does something on a regular basis to replenish her energy stores, she's not going to have enough energy for anything — including sex!

Two tried-and-true relaxation methods include:Yoga. Unlike running or other exercises, you can't think about your to-do list while you are doing yoga. This meditative time may be the only time in the week a woman finds to quiet her mind and quit multitasking!Spending time with friends. When you are with your girlfriends you're not a mom, a wife or a co-worker. You are just one of the girls, laughing, being silly, sharing thoughts and empathizing back and forth. Women tend to put our friendships on the back burner once we have kids — unless it's part of a playdate, of course! Try to spend at least one hour a week with a girlfriend (or a group of them) and you'll see how energized you feel as a result. And if you have lost touch with your friends, this is a great opportunity to give them a call and set up lunch or coffee!

Put your relationship above your kidsThe best way you can be a good parent to your children is by keeping your marriage strong and your home peaceful. This will also help model a loving and connected relationship for your children to copy later in life. That means not letting your maternal guilt get in the way of putting your husband and your relationship first

A recent John Hopkins study found that people are now rating similar interests, emotional connection, etc. as more important in a marriage than children. This is a welcome shift from studies in the past in which married individuals put children before everything.

Couples that devote all of their emotional energy, affection, time and resources to their children end up having nothing left for their spouse.

This doesn't mean don't love your kids 100 percent — it just means that you need date nights, vacations without the kids, and more time spent with your spouse one-on-one.

Have sex at least once a week even if you’d rather be sleeping or doing laundryThe more sex you have, the closer he will feel to you. The closer he feels to you, the more romantically and intimately he will behave — and the more you will want to have sex with him! Frequent sex is one of the key nutrients that feed a loving relationship. During the very worst of times (crisis, illness, etc.) you shouldn't go more than two weeks without being sexual. Ideally, you should shoot for once a week or more. Most women say that once they get started, they enjoy it and even think “Hey! Why don't we do this more often?” So, put away the chore list and just do it!

Laura Berman, LCSW, Ph.D., is the director of the Berman Center, a specialized health care facility in Chicago that's dedicated to helping women repair their sex lives and find relief from menopausal symptoms. Dr. Berman is also an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.