Sexual Dysfunction In Women

Female sexual dysfunction can prevent a woman from experiencing satisfaction during sex. It may affect your ability to become aroused, have an orgasm or enjoy sex without pain. Causes can be physical or psychological.

Causes of Sexual Dysfunction In Women

Blood flow disorders

Some research points to vascular (blood vessel) disorders. These disorders may prevent blood flow to parts of the female reproductive system. The vagina, clitoris and labia need increased blood flow for sexual arousal.

Certain medications and treatments

Some medications affect sexual function. Antidepressants may reduce your sex drive or your ability to have an orgasm. Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are especially likely to cause sexual side effects. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can also affect hormone levels and cause problems.

Gynecologic conditions

Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and vaginitis can all cause pain during sex. Vaginismus, a condition that causes vaginal muscle spasms, can also make intercourse uncomfortable.

Hormonal changes

Hormone imbalances may cause vaginal dryness or vaginal atrophy, making sex painful. Low estrogen levels can also reduce feeling in genitals. Menopause, surgery and pregnancy can affect hormone levels.

Particular health conditions

A number of health conditions can affect your ability to enjoy sex. These include diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. Drug addiction or alcohol abuse may also prevent a healthy sexual experience.

Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction In Women

Symptoms vary depending on what type of sexual dysfunction you’re experiencing:

Low sexual desire

This most common of female sexual dysfunctions involves a lack of sexual interest and willingness to be sexual.

Sexual arousal disorder

Your desire for sex might be intact, but you have difficulty with arousal or are unable to become aroused or maintain arousal during sexual activity.

Orgasmic disorder

You have persistent or recurrent difficulty in achieving orgasm after sufficient sexual arousal and ongoing stimulation.

Sexual pain disorder

You have pain associated with sexual stimulation or vaginal contact.

Diagnosis of Sexual Dysfunction In Women

  • If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • The provider can do a thorough evaluation of physical and psychological factors tied to sex.

  • Your healthcare provider will likely start by taking a full health history.

  • Past surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, may contribute to sexual dysfunction.

  • A physical exam can also rule out any gynecologic issues.

  • Your provider may do a pelvic exam and a Pap smear. Your medications will also be reviewed.

Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction In Women

Arousal techniques

Talk to your partner about different ways you can enhance desire and arousal. Consider making changes to your sexual routine. You may also try erotic materials (sexual stimulation devices, videos or books), massage or masturbation.


Talking with a mental health professional may help. You can work through emotional or psychological barriers to pleasurable sex. You may choose to have one-on-one counseling or couples counseling.

Hormone therapy

depending on your symptoms, your provider may recommend topical creams, vaginally administered medications or hormones taken orally or applied to your skin.


Flibanserin (Addyi) and bremelanotide (Vylees) are the only medications approved to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (low sex drive) in women. Only women who are premenopausal are candidates for this type of treatment. Your provider may discuss other medications that are used ‘off-label’ to treat sexual dysfunction.

Pain management

There are several approaches to reducing pain during intercourse. You can try different sexual positions, vaginal lubricants or relaxation techniques before sex. Your provider may also talk to you about use of vaginal dilators.

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