Image of a confident woman in her 40s

by Katie Smith

After my 41st birthday, I began to notice a change in myself. I had more energy and felt lighter and happier, but something else was brewing. My libido was suddenly awake again. While I have always enjoyed sex, intimacy and being a bit naughty, I realized that part of me mellowed out a bit in my early to mid-30s.

Maybe it was having three kids in three years that stalled my libido, and my body was telling me to shut it down and take care of the clan I had. Perhaps it knew I could be an average mom to three, but if there was one more thrown into the mix, it wouldn't be the best thing for my body or my mind.

After asking a few of my 40-year-old friends if they felt this way, I almost got attacked they were so excited. I was met with, "Oh my God, yes!" and "Things are getting really hot now."

A common thread with all of us is we have kids in the tween or teen stage; our children certainly are more independent, which leaves us with more energy.

Women who have children who are a bit older also aren't being touched or pulled on all day. They are able to spend more time on self-care, which makes them happier.

These things make sense of course, but I couldn't help but wonder if something else is going on in women's bodies with our hormones at this age.

Tiffany Alyse Yelverton, a sexologist and founder of Sexy Survivors, an organization that helps reintroduce sex and intimacy back into the lives of those experiencing life-changing events like cancer, tells SheKnows that hormones definitely play a major role.

"As perimenopause begins, our hormone levels dip and spike at different times. Estrogen begins to drop, and if testosterone is steady, then it is as if testosterone gets a boost,” Yelverton says. “Also, during the 40s, there are times where the body is producing top levels of progesterone and testosterone to give one more push for procreating."

Along the same lines, Dr. John Robinson and Dr. Cristina Bosch of The Hormone Zone tell SheKnows that at this age, our hormone levels — especially testosterone, the main libido hormone — can decrease, but that is not what always dictates a woman's sexual desire.

"As women approach their 40s, they may experience a sense of liberation towards themselves and their partner, heightening their sexual libido and response,” they explain. “As women age, they begin to look at sex as a way towards their own personal liberation and self-expression — as it should be. But again, this is not always the case, and we tend to deal with many women who have difficulty in the idea of taking care of themselves and opening up to their own sense of personal sexuality."

So while hormones do play a role in our sexual appetite, it is not the only thing to take into consideration. Everyone is different and Robinson and Bosch say that if you are someone who has always had a high libido most of your life, your hormone levels may not affect you at all.

However, if they do and you find yourself sitting with your gynecologist and wondering if you will ever feel sexual again, Robinson and Bosch say that hormone replacement therapy, when done in a comprehensive and optimal fashion, “can literally change a woman’s life, enhancing her sexuality, sense of self and her connection to her loved ones and partner."

But not everyone agrees about the role of hormones in increases in women’s sex drives in their 40s.

“Some women do experience an increased libido in their 40s, but typically none of this can be related to a hormonal change of anything going on in the body, as there are no studies linked to this,” Dr. Jane L. Frederick, a reproductive endocrinologist at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, tells SheKnows.

Instead, she suggests that it could be a social change.

“As a woman ages, she may become more comfortable with sexuality, or in some cases if she has not conceived a child, there may be an increased desire to procreate, thus creating an increase in her sex drive,” Frederick adds.

She has a point. Years of experience and feeling comfortable in our skin as well as our partners having a vasectomy or some other more freeing form of birth control is going to make us in the mood for more intimacy too. We are able to be more spontaneous, and that can be very exciting. We also find ourselves with a little more time and freedom — especially if our kids aren't crawling into bed with us every night or needing so much from us during the day.

Regardless of the cause, having a fulfilling sex life can be just one of the many things to look forward to as you get older.