Or Lack Thereof….
Sexual Problems in Women are More Common Than You Think
Like women themselves, female sexuality is complex. Admittedly, men have it easy. For men, a sexual problem is easy to spot. But for women, they might not even realize that what they’re feeling (or not feeling) is considered a sexual dysfunction.
Believe it or not, a sexual problem simply means that sex is not satisfying or is not a positive experience. Of course, it’s only a real problem if it actually bothers you or if it causes problems in your relationship. Surprisingly, most women have some type of a sexual problem at one time or another (ask the exhausted mom of a newborn if she’s interested in sex!). For some women, the problem is ongoing, but for most it’s a temporary condition.
While at its core, female sexuality craves closeness and intimacy, women also have physical needs (men, please listen up). Combine these and sex is gratifying, as it should be. As a woman, you should have a desire for sex. You should be able to feel aroused. You should (yes, you should) be able to have an orgasm. And most importantly, sex should not hurt!
When there is a problem in either the emotional or physical part of your life, sexual problems can occur. On the emotional side, things like stress, relationship problems, depression or anxiety, a memory of sexual trauma or unhappiness with your body can increase your chances of sexual dysfunction. Physically, hormonal problems, aging, pain from an injury, diabetes or arthritis can be the culprit. Also, medicines for depression, blood pressure and diabetes can actually result in sexual problems.
If you’re not enjoying sex, you should talk to your doctor. And there’s no need to be shy. You may find it helpful to write out what you want to say beforehand. For example, you could say something like, “For the past few months, I haven’t enjoyed sex as much as I used to.” Or “Ever since I started taking that medicine, I haven’t felt like having sex.”
While you may feel uncomfortable discussing sexual problems with your doctor, remember he or she is a medical professional. It is your well-being that is the most important. At Fayetteville Woman’s Care, our doctors and nurses have as much time as it takes to make you feel better. That’s what we are here for.
Treating Sexual Problems
As we said above, a sexual problem simply means that sex is not satisfying or not a positive experience. While most women will experience a sexual problem during their lifetime, it’s usually a temporary condition and can be fixed relatively easily. Also, every woman responds to sex in a different way at every point in her life. You know your body and when you should talk to your doctor.
Surprisingly, when sexual dysfunction does occur, decreasing the frequency of sex actually can make the problem worse. Regular vaginal intercourse improves blood flow, lubrication and the overall health of the vagina, and it should be a part of any treatment plan.
Treatment may include treating health problems, getting communication counseling and learning about things you can practice at home. But first, treatment depends on the cause of the problem, and there may be one or more issues at work. Your OB/GYN can help determine the cause or causes. For example, women who are aging, just like men, see a decrease in sex drive.
Sometimes the aging process makes the vagina stiff or decreases vaginal fluid discharge. On the other hand, other issues, like learning about your own body and desires, may be the cause of sexual dissatisfaction. You might take a warm bath to relax, have plenty of foreplay before sex or try different positions during sex. Ideally, you and your partner will be able to talk openly about sexual concerns and desires together.
Of the many options available, the ones listed below have shown the most promise.
Hormonal treatments: The use of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone supplements has had a positive impact for some women, but no formulation has gained FDA approval for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women. Hormones work by increasing vaginal health, and it is hypothesized that increasing testosterone levels in women with poor sexual desire can increase sexual enjoyment. Your doctor can tell you if this is an option for you.
Sexual Therapeutics: Psychosocial counseling has been shown to have a positive impact in well-motivated couples. Improving relationships and spousal understanding of sexual problems can lead to improved sexual relations. This type of treatment can include increasing pre-sexual stimulation (foreplay), using adult toys or videos and exploring exotic sexual methodologies such as karma sutra or tantric sex. If you are not sure where to find a therapist, talk to your OB/GYN.
Herbal Treatments: Herbal treatments have been touted by some to offer improved arousal and orgasm in women. But there is very little scientific data for most of these products, which include ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, ginseng, cocoa and yohimbine. Avlimil (www.avlimil.com) is an herbal combination that actually has some scientific data to support its claim of increased desire, arousal, orgasm and overall sexual satisfaction. While the results were not dramatic, it could be a good choice for some patients. None of these herbal treatments requires a prescription.
Sex involves emotional, physical and relationship issues. Successful treatment of dysfunction requires a high level of comfort between you and your doctor. When patients are comfortable with their doctor-patient relationship, discussing these kinds of issues goes smoothly. And even though most of the treatments for sexual dysfunction do not require a prescription, having a doctor who is open and understanding helps my patients immensely.
There are a variety of other options available, which address specific problems and may be right for you. While sexual dysfunction is a very personal and private concern, your OB/GYN has been trained to treat basic sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction is not normal at any age. If you are experiencing this problem, the sooner you seek treatment the sooner you could see success.