Female sexual dysfunction symptoms may include:
- Having pain during sex
- Not becoming aroused or “excited” during sex
- Not having an orgasm during sex
- Not wanting to have sex
Some women have problems with sex throughout their adult life. Other women develop problems later in life. Sexual dysfunction symptoms can be caused by many things. For instance, a woman might have sex problems if she:
- Has problems with her partner or in her relationship
- Feels unhappy or bad about herself
Sexual dysfunction can also be linked to physical events in a woman’s life. For instance, sex can be painful for a woman in the weeks or months after she gives birth. Some women lose interest in sex as they get older or after they go through menopause. (Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having monthly periods.)
Certain conditions can also lead to female sexual dysfunction. These include:
- Medical problems, such as cancer or heart problems
- Mood problems, such as depression
- Dryness or pain in the vagina
- Pain in the lower belly, such as from an infection or past surgery
- Changes in the muscles near and around the vagina
Sex problems can also be a side effect of certain medicines. For example, medicines to treat heart disease or depression sometimes cause sexual dysfunction problems. You can help yourself to improve your sexual dysfunction, if you are having relationship problems, you can try to improve your relationship with your partner. For example, you can:
- Make an effort to have more fun together by having a regular “date night”
- Read books or websites about sex and then talk to your partner about how to make sex better
- Go to counseling
Women with pain or dryness during sex often feel better if they use vaginal lubricants. These are sold without a prescription. Examples include K-Y Jelly® and Astroglide®.
It is also important to stay as healthy as possible and get treated for any medical problems you have. Women who feel healthy and happy are more likely to be happy with their sex life.
Female sexual dysfunction can be treated in different ways. These include:
- Using vaginal lubricants or a prescription cream (usually estrogen) to treat vaginal dryness
- Getting treatment for mood problems, if you have mood problems
- Working with your doctor to change any medicines you take that might be causing sex problems
- Having physical therapy to loosen the muscles around your vagina so that you do not have pain during sex
In addition, some women who have gone through menopause are helped by taking hormone medicines.
Some treatments are not recommended by doctors. For example, doctors do not usually recommend that women take the medicines that men take for sex problems. Also, most doctors do not recommend that women take herbal treatments to improve sex.
Dyspareunia is pain that happens just before, during, or after sex. It can happen in men and women, but is more common in women.
Women can have pain at the vulva, the area around the opening of the vagina. Or the pain can be inside the vagina or in the lower belly. Men can have pain in the penis, testicles, belly, and sometimes the rectum.
There are many possible causes.
In women, common causes include:
- Childbirth – Sex can be painful for several weeks or months after giving birth.
- Endometriosis – In this condition, the tissue that normally grows inside a woman’s uterus grows outside it. This can cause pain in the belly during sex.
- Vaginal dryness – This can be caused by:
- Menopause – This is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having periods. The vagina and tissues around it can get dry and thin at menopause. This can make sex hurt.
- Not being aroused or “excited” before sex
- Conditions that cause long-lasting pain in the vulva, bladder, or pelvis – These can include:
- A condition called “vulvodynia” – This is pain in the vulva.
- A condition called “interstitial cystitis” – This condition causes bladder pain and other symptoms.
- A condition called “chronic pelvic pain” – This is pain in the area below the belly button that lasts 6 months or longer.
- An infection in the vagina or bladder
- Skin problems around the vagina
- Bad feelings about a partner or relationship – Feeling bad about your partner or about yourself can make sex hurt.
- A painful experience in the past – This could be a past experience of sex or a medical exam that hurt. It could even be pain from using a tampon.
- Birth control pills – Some women who take birth control pills start having pain during sex.
Treatments for women include:
- Antibiotics or antifungal medicines – These can help if the pain is caused by an infection in the vagina or bladder.
- Creams or gels to keep the vagina moist – These include:
- Vaginal lubricants, which are used during sex
- Vaginal moisturizers, which are used several times a week
- A prescription cream to treat vaginal dryness (usually estrogen) or a skin condition.
- A Gels or ointments to numb the vagina before and after sex.
- Physical therapy to loosen the muscles around the vagina.
- Counseling – If pain is caused by bad feelings about sex, a relationship, or yourself.
- Surgery – A few women have pain that is caused by a growth inside the body. Doctors might do surgery to take out the growth.