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Female Sexual Dysfunction: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Sexual dysfunction is a common problem across the globe. Talking about females, 30-50% of the total population is affected by sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. 

A woman’s body undergoes numerous changes in her life. Puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause are not easy to deal with. 

Short-term loss of libido and lack of interest in sex is fine. In the long run, it might be detrimental. Sexual dysfunction has various symptoms.

A woman may have at least one or more of these symptoms. To know more about female sexual dysfunction, stay tuned.

What Is Sexual Dysfunction?

Any form of disinterest or abnormal symptoms like painful sex, lack of arousal and not finding pleasure in sexual intercourse is a form of sexual dysfunction. It is categorized into four types.

  • Lack Of Orgasm

    Orgasmic disorders prevent a woman from achieving[1] orgasm even after being stimulated and aroused. 

    Anorgasmia is one such disorder that delays or reduces the frequency of orgasms. In some cases, there is no orgasm at all.

  • Painful Intercourse

    Sex is supposed to be a pleasure and not pain. Unfortunately, some medical problems lead to painful sex. Such pain in the genital area during intercourse is called[2] dyspareunia.

    This pain may be internal, external, or both. Another painful condition is vaginismus. The muscle contraction leads to problems in penetration, resulting in pain. 

  • Low Libido

    Sex drive is important to initiate something spicy between you and your partner. 

    Low libido causes disinterest in sex. Occasionally it is fine. Everyone has low libido for some period. A prolonged loss of sex drive is sexual dysfunction.

  • Arousal Disorder

    It is different from orgasmic disorders. When a female is suffering from a lack of arousal even after stimulation. The person loses[3] interest in sex and has no fantasies due to this disorder.

  • Sexual Aversion Disorder

    It is the reluctance or unwillingness to indulge in any genital contact with the partner during sexual activity. 

What Causes Dysfunction In Females?

There are varied reasons responsible for causing sexual dysfunction in females. Some of the possible reasons.

  • Certain Medications

    A few medicines may affect sexual desires and the reproductive system. The impact could be mild or severe.

    Antidepressant medication pills are related to loss of libido. According to a study[4], 72% of women reported problems with sexual desires after using antidepressants.

    Also, 83% of females faced problems with arousal. One such class of antidepressants is SSRI( Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). 

    Likewise, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer. It affects ovaries, and vaginal tissues and causes a lack of lube. 

    As well as, high blood pressure[5] medicinal pills like beta blockers and diuretics cause loss of libido and decreased vaginal sensation.

    Anabolic steroids widely popular to build muscle and bone mass are also related to sexual dysfunction.

  • Lack Of Blood Flow To The Vagina

    Several medical conditions result in decreased blood flow to the genital area. Low estrogen levels are the primary reason for less blood flow to the vagina.

    Other reasons may be bad blood circulation and medicines. The lack of blood results in thinning of vaginal tissues.

    Hence, sensation with stimulation decreases. Moreover, pain is likely to be experienced. 

  • Hormonal Imbalance

    Females experience hormonal fluctuations more frequently. The female body goes through several changes from monthly menstrual cycles to childbirth

    Low levels of estrogen affect almost everything related to females. It decreases sex drive, lubrication, and sexual pleasure. 

    The study[6] explains that pregnancy may also affect sexual activity.  During menopause, estrogen and testosterone levels drop, causing a declining interest in sexual activity. 

    Vaginal atrophy is one such issue. Menopause and postmenopause period results in thinning of vaginal tissues and dryness.

    Such a situation leads to rough sex-inducing pain. Vaginal atrophy also includes frequent urinary tract infections.

  • UTI

    Frequent urinary tract infections could also lead to sexual dysfunction. This reason could be really obvious.

    Hence, you might want to maintain clean hygiene and make sure that you can clean your private parts when you are taking a bath.

    This will make sure that there are any fungi or bacteria residing in any of your private parts that might lead to a UTI kind of infection.

    One could also try home remedies for UTI treatments to ensure you can be old as quickly as possible.

  • Prolonged Chronic Illness

    Medical conditions that stretch over a long time affect sex life. Some medical conditions include type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart problems. 

    Obesity affects sexual intercourse by controlling stamina, performance, and arousal. Cancer is very challenging for a person already.

    Along with pain, the patient experiences weakness and frequent breakdowns. Heart problems or their treatments like bypass surgery do not leave any space for making love.

    Just like any physical illness, mental health also affects performance. Cognitive impairment is also responsible for disrupted sex life. 

    Any illness like this may have a short-term or long-term impact on your performance and arousal.

  • Depression And Stress

    Both depression and stress are serious concerns for a healthy life. People suffering from such problems have a difficult time finding pleasure in sexual stimulation[7] and arousal. 

    Stress is related to a hormone called cortisol. According to research, cortisol suppresses sexual desires. Antidepressants, as mentioned above, affect libido to a great extent.

  • Poor Self Confidence

    Humans often try to fit into societal norms. A body looking different from beauty standards instigate a sense of guilt and alienation[8]

     In the case of low estrogen, the breast does not develop fully and periods are irregular.

    In the case of high estrogen, bloating and increased symptoms of PMS may be observed. Such troubles are mentally exhausting.

    Due to insecurities, many females withdraw themselves from indulging in sexual activity. Even if they try to, it affects their performance and they experience no pleasure in it.

  • Sexual Trauma

    Unhealthy relationships also create a huge impact on one’s mind.

    Toxic, abusive relationships cause uneasiness between the couple and one might even refuse[9] to participate in sexual activity. 

    Several females report negative experiences with their partners as a reason for fear and trouble finding pleasure.

  • Injuries

    Several accidents result in injuries to reproductive organs. Even if a female sustains injury on other body parts that damages nerves, it impacts the blood flow to the genital area.

    In both cases, sex becomes painful. Another common cause of injury is childbirth.

    A lot of women go through more than labor pain to bloom a life. Such injuries may cause sexual dysfunction.

  • Sleep Deprivation

    A sound sleep of 6-8 hours is a must for rejuvenating energy[10]. Lack of proper rest messes up the hormonal balance.

    Loss of libido is females’ most commonly reported issue due to lack of sleep. Insomnia worsens this even more. 

  • Unhealthy Lifestyle

    Eating oily, unhealthy, and processed food increase the chances of obesity. It may, in turn, increase sexual dysfunction.

    Moreover, consumption of alcohol and smoking are linked to decreased sex drive.

  • Lack Of Communication With Partners

    In the long run, some women have trouble seeking pleasure from their partners. This might be due to a lack of time devoted to communication.

    Also, trying something[11] new might drive away the feeling of boredom.

How Is Female Sexual Dysfunction Diagnosed?

There are several ways to diagnose sexual dysfunction. The examination depends on the type of dysfunction. 

The doctor generally begins with a few questions to get a better understanding of your past experiences and troubles you are facing.

If required, the doctor prescribes hormonal tests. In case of gynecologic issues, the gynecologist physically examines the genital area for checking the pelvic floor.

Image testing is done if the doctor is skeptical of a tumor or cyst. If the problem is due to psychological factors, a counselor is more likely to help determine the cause. 

The diagnosis of sexual dysfunction is mainly painless. Symptoms of slight discomfort might be faced in the diagnosis of pain-related sexual dysfunction.

Treatment For Curing Sexual Dysfunction

Depending on the type of sexual dysfunction, the possible treatments are,

  • Hormonal Therapy

    This treatment is given for sexual dysfunction caused by hormonal imbalance.

    Depending[12] on the severity and symptoms, the doctor recommends certain creams or pills to balance the hormonal levels.

    Supplementation could be taken orally or applied to the skin. Menopausal women are usually given testosterone boosters to improve libido.

  • Counseling

    If the cause is trauma from the past, a toxic relationship, or a misunderstanding with the partner, counseling is the right treatment.

    Talking openly about your experiences[13] might help find the cause and even treat the problem correctly.

  • Massage

    A massage may help you increase blood flow to the genital area, perform yourself, and help increase vaginal sensation and arousal. It is better if done by the partner.

  • Bonding With The Partner

    Take out time to communicate what is going wrong between you two. Making out time for each other and doing romantic things might help ignite the spark.

    Focus more on female stimulation techniques. Try out different things to find your way to pleasure.

  • Medications

    Some medications could help improve sex drive in females. Your doctor might prescribe some medication as per your requirements.

  • Exercises

    Tight pelvic muscles and less flexibility are some hurdles that may lead to painful sex. Adding a few exercises to your workout routine might bring about some change.

  • Arousal Methods

    Knowing your body better, using electric[14] stimulation such as a vibrator, or, watching videos or certain books might help you improve your sex drive.

  • Self-Help

    It is the most crucial part of any procedure. Taking care of yourself is a must. Sleeping on time, and avoiding alcohol and smoking will help you get better health.

    You might see a change for good in your sexual desires. You may include some foods in your diet that may help in boosting your estrogen or testosterone.

Conclusion

Sexual dysfunction is common in women. A few causes are hormonal imbalance, unhealthy lifestyle, trauma, and medical conditions. Treatment is decided by the type of problem faced.

 If you feel disinterested in sexual activity sometimes, it is normal. But if you feel the problem is not occasional, seek medical help. 

 A simple one-on-one interaction with the doctor or physical examination might help find the underlying cause. Therapy and medicines offer great help in curing sexual dysfunction. 

It is just like other medical problems. So share your feelings with your partner and doctor freely to help find your pleasure.

Sources/References

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Orgasmic dysfunction in women. Date of Update: March 31, 2020. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001953.htm
  2. Muhammad Tayyeb and Vikas Gupta. Dyspareunia. Date of Update: June 11, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562159/
  3. Annamaria Giraldi, Alessandra H Rellini, James Pfaus, et. al. Female sexual arousal disorders. J Sex Med. 2013 Jan;10(1):58-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02820.x. Epub 2012 Sep 13. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22974112/
  4. Agnes Higgins, Michael Nash, and Aileen M Lynch. Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug Healthc Patient Saf. 2010; 2: 141–150. Published online 2010 Sep 9. doi: 10.2147/DHPS.S7634.
  5. Carlos M. Ferrario and Pavel Levy. Sexual Dysfunction in Patients With Hypertension: Implications for Therapy. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2002 Nov-Dec; 4(6): 424–432. Published online 2008 Jun 28. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-6175.2002.00862.x.
  6. Francisco Javier Fernández-Carrasco, Luciano Rodríguez-Díaz, Urbano González-Mey, et. al. Changes in Sexual Desire in Women and Their Partners during Pregnancy. J Clin Med. 2020 Feb; 9(2): 526. Published online 2020 Feb 14. doi: 10.3390/jcm9020526.
  7. Lisa Dawn Hamilton and Cindy M. Meston. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2013 Oct; 10(10): 2443–2454. Published online 2013 Jul 10. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12249.
  8. Poorandokht Afshari, Zeinab Houshyar, Nahid Javadifar, et. al. The Relationship Between Body Image and Sexual Function in Middle-Aged Women. Electron Physician. 2016 Nov; 8(11): 3302–3308. Published online 2016 Nov 25. doi: 10.19082/3302.
  9. Pooja Lalchandani, Nadra Lisha, Carolyn Gibson, et. al. Early Life Sexual Trauma and Later Life Genitourinary Dysfunction and Functional Disability in Women. J Gen Intern Med. 2020 Nov; 35(11): 3210–3217. Published online 2020 Sep 1. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-06118-0
  10. David A Kalmbach, J Todd Arnedt, Vivek Pillai, et. al. The impact of sleep on female sexual response and behavior: a pilot study. J Sex Med. 2015 May;12(5):1221-32. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12858. Epub 2015 Mar 16. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25772315/
  11. Allen B. Mallory, Amelia M. Stanton, and Ariel B. Handy. Couples’ sexual communication and dimensions of sexual function: A meta-analysis. J Sex Res. 2019 Sep; 56(7): 882–898. Published online 2019 Feb 19. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2019.1568375
  12. Ahmed AlAwlaqi, Houda Amor, and Mohamed E. Hammadeh. Role of hormones in hypoactive sexual desire disorder and current treatment. J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2017 Dec; 18(4): 210–218. Published online 2017 Dec 15. doi: 10.4274/jtgga.2017.0071.
  13. Azita Tiznobek, Seyedeh Tahereh Mirmolaei, Zohreh Momenimovahed, et. al.Effect of counseling on sexual function and behavior in postmenopausal women and their spouses: a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) study. Prz Menopauzalny. 2017 Sep; 16(3): 99–103. Published online 2017 Oct 12. doi: 10.5114/pm.2017.70587.
  14. Kim Wallen and Elisabeth A. Lloyd Female Sexual Arousal: Genital Anatomy and Orgasm in Intercourse. Horm Behav. 2011 May; 59(5): 780–792. Published online 2010 Dec 30. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2010.12.004.

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