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Sexual Problems in Women


Topic Overview

What are sexual problems?

A sexual problem is something that keeps sex from being satisfying or positive.

Most women have symptoms of a sexual problem at one time or another. For some women, the symptoms are ongoing. But your symptoms are only a sexual problem if they bother you or cause problems in your relationship.

There is no "normal" level of sexual response because it's different for every woman. You may also find that what is normal at one stage of your life changes at another stage. For example, it's common for an exhausted mother of a baby to have little interest in sex. And it's common for both women and men to have lower sex drives as they age.

What are some causes of sexual problems in women?

Female sexuality is complicated. At its core is a need for closeness and intimacy. Women also have physical needs. When there is a problem in either the emotional or physical part of your life, you can have sexual problems.

Some common causes include:

  • Emotional causes, such as stress, relationship problems, depression or anxiety, a memory of sexual abuse or rape, and unhappiness with your body.
  • Physical causes, such as hormone problems, pain from an injury or other problem, and certain conditions such as diabetes or arthritis.
  • Aging, which can cause changes in the vagina, such as dryness.
  • Taking certain medicines. Some medicines for depression, blood pressure, and diabetes may cause sexual problems.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of sexual problems can include:

  • Having less desire for sex.
  • Having trouble feeling aroused.
  • Not being able to have an orgasm.
  • Having pain during sex.

How are sexual problems in women diagnosed?

You may notice a change in desire or sexual satisfaction. When this happens, it helps to look at what is and isn't working in your body and in your life. For example:

  • Are you ill, or do you take a medicine that can lower your sexual desire or response?
  • Are you stressed or often very tired?
  • Do you have a caring, respectful connection with a partner?
  • Do you and your partner have the time and privacy to relax together?
  • Do you have painful memories about sex or intimacy?

Your doctor can help you decide what to do. He or she will ask questions, do a physical exam, and talk to you about possible causes.

It can be hard or embarrassing to talk to your doctor about this. Sometimes it helps to write out what you want to say before you go. For example, you could say something like, "For the past few months, I haven't enjoyed sex as much as I used to." Or you could say, "Ever since I started taking that medicine, I haven't felt like having sex."

How are they treated?

Treatment for a sexual problem depends on the cause. It may include treating a health problem, learning how to talk openly with your partner, and learning about things you can do at home. For example, you might take a warm bath to relax, have plenty of foreplay before sex, or try different positions during sex.

It's important to feel comfortable talking with your doctor. The more you can tell your doctor, the more he or she will be able to help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about sexual problems in women:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

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