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Female sexual dysfunctions: symptoms, treatments, and sexual health

Sex should feel good. When it doesn’t, or when sex is unappealing or unsatisfactory, we tend to go down a shame spiral and shy away from sex out of embarrassment or fear. Suffering in silence only intensifies feelings of isolation, but female sexual dysfunction is something many women deal with.

“Upwards of 40% of women have experienced unsatisfying, if not unpleasant, sexual encounters,” says Dr. Karen Patrusky, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist.

Dr. Patrusky prefaces this statistic by saying these numbers might be underreported because many are hesitant to admit to or discuss this personal frustration. The fact of the matter is, our bodies are working machines operating under a series of systems that can be disrupted by any number of causes. The human body is flawed, just as humans are flawed. Our bodies aren’t something to be ashamed of, but rather be curious about.

The best thing you can do to keep your body operating at peak performance is to continue to learn more about it. The more you know, the more informed and empowered you are to make decisions that benefit your sexual health. 

Better sexual pleasure can improve your overall wellness, so if you’re experiencing any glitches in your system, it might be time for a tune-up. Below, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of female sexual dysfunction and arm you with the information you need to tackle this snag in your sexual well-being. 

What is female sexual dysfunction?

Female sexual dysfunction refers to any problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents a woman from experiencing sexual satisfaction. It includes issues surrounding desire, arousal, climax, and pain. 

“The physiologic process and response are complex, requiring physical, emotional, and hormonal responses in order for the experience to be considered satisfying,” says Dr. Patrusky.

It’s no wonder why our bodies occasionally stall—there’s a lot going on! The body is constantly processing information and reacting to different levels of activity. Any small hiccup can cause the entire house of cards to crumble. 

Now that we understand the complexities of female sexual dysfunction, let’s discuss the three most common dysfunctions, including causes and potential treatments.

Decreased sexual desire and arousal 

Desire and arousal are two sides of the same coin. Many women experience a lack of interest in sex, which can lead to diminished arousal. It’s also possible for women to feel aroused with no impulse to engage in sexual activities. Decreased sexual desire and arousal can be caused by hormonal imbalances, stress, or medications. 

“The overall biggest issue that can affect a woman’s sexual function are changes in hormones,” says Dr. Patrusky. “These changes are most problematic for women when they become menopausal.”

Women experiencing the effects of low sex drive should address this issue with their medical provider and partner. There are a number of treatments for restoring the chemical balance responsible for desire, including awaken nasal spray. It’s a libido nasal spray that can naturally activate sexual desire with the help of bremelanotide, a libido-inducing and stress-reducing peptide.

Passion and desire naturally fluctuate, but this treatment can help women regain control of this ephemeral state of being. 

Painful intercourse

Sex shouldn’t be painful. In fact, sex is a natural pain reliever due to the endorphines released in your brain during intercourse. Painful intercourse can be caused by medical conditions like endometriosis, vaginismus, or ovarian cysts. Certain medications can also impact your pleasure.

“The vaginal tissues are very delicate, and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and allergy medications can cause vaginal dryness by reducing natural lubrication,” says Dr. Patrusky. 

If you’re experiencing painful intercourse, you can and should stop at the first sign of discomfort. Vaginal dryness can be treated with topical treatments such as replenish cream, which increases hydration and reduces pain. These treatments not only reduce pain, but they can also enhance sexual pleasure for an out-of-this-world experience. 

Dryness is especially common in women going through menopause. The decline in reproduction hormones can throw your entire system out of wack, but know that it won’t last forever and that there are plenty of solutions to employ along the way that make this transition easier.  

“If the dryness is purely due to changes in hormones, for example menopause, the most important thing is for women to understand the process and not feel defeated,” says Dr. Patrusky. 

Lack of orgasm 

Can’t get there—no matter how hard you try?

Sex without climax is, well, anti-climactic. If your orgasms have stopped or slowed down, it can feel like you’re grasping at straws to get it back. Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, or past trauma can lead to a lack of orgasms, as well as poor stimulation. If you’re taking certain medications like antidepressants, you may experience more difficulty reaching climax. Talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications if they’re messing with your libido. 

“The bottom line is sometimes it is as simple as adjusting a medication for one problem to improve another issue,” says Dr. Patrusky. 

Topical creams like Enhance Cream can help increase blood flow to the clitoris, which heightens sensations and stimulates physical arousal to help you get there over and over again. A combination of Sildenafil (generic Viagra), oxytocin (the “bonding” hormone), and L-Arginine (an amino acid responsible for increasing blood flow) work together in perfect harmony to address the physical and emotional barriers to orgasm. 

Here’s a staggering statistic: less than 50% of women orgasm during intercourse.

So, even if you’re not experiencing serious side effects from female sexual dysfunctions, who wouldn’t want to have more mind-blowing orgasms?! 

Experiencing female dysfunction is not embarrassing, it’s enlightening. It’s an opportunity to examine your systems and discover how changes to your physical and emotional health can impact your sexual health.

Knowledge is power, and when you know more about your body, you can confidently take control of your health and make decisions that improve your pleasure. 

At the end of the day, your sexual health is your responsibility. Being empowered by this notion will lead you to take swift action and reconnect with your body to evaluate, explore, and experience the height of sexual gratification.

Cristina Montemayor
Cristina Montemayor is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on health, lifestyle, and beauty. She has been published in BRIDES, Slate, HelloGiggles, and Business Insider.