Sexual Problems in Women
Female sexual dysfunction isn't uncommon — many women experience problems with sexual function at some point in their lives. Female sexual dysfunction can happen later in life after you've experienced a period of satisfactory functioning.
There are many problems that can keep a woman from enjoying sex. They include
- Lack of sexual desire
- Inability to become aroused
- Lack of orgasm, or sexual climax
- Painful intercourse
These problems may have physical or psychological causes. Physical causes may include conditions like diabetes, nerve disorders or hormone problems. Psychological causes may include work-related stress and anxiety. They may also include depression or concerns about marriage or relationship problems.
Sexual response cycle
To understand why sexual problems occur, it is important to understand the sexual response cycle. This cycle is the same in both men and women, although at different rates and, obviously, with different physical changes. The cycle has 4 steps.
- Desire (excitement phase) - Desire is a sexual "charge" that increases interest in and responsiveness to sexual activity. You feel "in the mood." Your heartbeat and breathing quicken, and your skin becomes reddened (flushes).
- Arousal (plateau phase) - Sexual stimulation--touch, vision, hearing, taste, smell, or imagination--brings about further physical changes. Fluids are secreted within the vagina, moistening the vagina, labia, and vulva. These fluids provide lubrication for intercourse. The vagina expands, and the clitoris enlarges. The nipples become hardened or erect.
- Orgasm (climax) - At the peak of arousal, the muscles surrounding the vagina contract rhythmically, causing a pleasurable sensation. This is often referred to as the sexual climax.
- Resolution - The vagina, clitoris, and surrounding areas return to their unaroused states. You feel content, relaxed, and possibly sleepy.
Every woman progresses through the cycle at her own rate, which is normal for her. A sexual problem may occur if any of these stages does not occur.
Any of these can be very distressing for a woman, because everyone deserves a satisfying sex life. They can be distressing for her partner, too, and can lead to problems in the relationship.
- Lack of sexual desire - Lack of interest in sex, or desire for sex, is a common problem in both men and women, but especially in women. Lack of desire stops the sexual response cycle before it starts. Lack of desire is temporary in some people and an ongoing problem in others.
- Difficulties becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm - Inability to become sexually aroused is sometimes related to lack of desire. In other cases, the woman feels sexual desire but cannot become aroused. Orgasm may be delayed or not occur at all (anorgasmia). This can be very distressing for a woman who feels desire and becomes aroused. It can create a vicious cycle in which the woman loses interest in sex because she does not have an orgasm.
- Pain during intercourse- Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) is not uncommon. Like other sexual problems, it can cause a woman to lose interest in sex.
You can improve your sexual health by enhancing communication with your partner and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Seek counseling. Talk with a counselor or therapist specializing in sexual and relationship problems. Therapy often includes education about how to optimize your body's sexual response, ways to enhance intimacy with your partner, and recommendations for reading materials or couples exercises. With a therapist's help, you may gain a better understanding of your sexual identity, beliefs and attitudes; relationship factors including intimacy and attachment; communication and coping styles; and your overall emotional health.
Medical treatment for female sexual dysfunction
Treating female sexual dysfunction tied to an underlying medical condition might include:
- Adjusting or changing medications that have sexual side effects
- Treating thyroid problems or other hormonal conditions
- Optimizing treatment for depression or anxiety
- Trying strategies recommended by your doctor to help with pelvic pain or other pain problems
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