Symptoms and Signs of Female Sexual Problems

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2021

Doctor's Notes on Female Sexual Problems

Female sexual problems refer to anything that interferes with a woman's satisfaction with a sexual activity. It is also referred to as female sexual dysfunction (FSD) by medical professionals. The sexual response cycle includes four phases: desire (excitement phase), arousal (plateau phase), orgasm (climax), and resolution. A problem with one or more of these phases can result in dissatisfaction. There are numerous possible causes for female sexual dysfunction including

  • relationship problems,
  • emotional problems,
  • insufficient stimulation,
  • gynecologic problems,
  • physical or medical conditions,
  • medications,
  • some medical treatments,
  • a history of abuse,
  • attitudes toward sex, and
  • sexual problems of the partner.

Symptoms of female sexual problems include

What is the Treatment for Female Sexual Problems?

Many types of sexual problems can be treated by addressing underlying physical or psychological problems.

Hormones (or lack thereof) are a major cause of sexual dysfunction in women. As women age, levels of estrogen decrease, which can lead to poor vaginal lubrication that can cause pain with intercourse. Low estrogen can also cause decreased genital sensation making sex less pleasurable. Low levels of the male hormone testosterone in women may also contribute to less sexual arousal, genital sensation, and orgasm.

If sexual dysfunction is due to pain the following strategies may be used:

  • Vaginal lubricants to help relieve pain caused by friction 
  • Changing sexual positions to a more comfortable one
  • Relaxation before intercourse (warm bath, meditation) may decrease pain responses

Anxiety may be a major cause of sexual dysfunction in women. Learning about sexual behaviors and normal responses may ease anxiety. Ways to decrease anxiety over sexual dysfunction include:

  • Patient education to help women overcome anxiety about sexual function and performance
  • Distraction with music, videos, or television
  • Enhancing sexual stimulation
    • Increased foreplay
    • Sensual massage
    • Roleplaying
    • Erotic or non-erotic fantasies
    • Masturbation
    • Changing the sexual routine
    • Erotic videos or books

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.