Sexual dysfunction in women: Is your lack of interest normal?

For many women, love and sex go hand in hand and achieving a satisfying sex life relies, in part, on enjoying good sexual health.

If you have noticed any changes in your sexual performance and interest, the cause could be a sexual dysfunction.

“Sexual dysfunction” describes a set of conditions that translate into a decreased sexual desire or not being able to be sexually aroused.

Sexual dysfunctions can cause insecurity, which in turn can lead to problems in the relationship.

Symptoms of female sexual disfunction

A woman may suffer from sexual dysfunction if she is distressed by any of the following:

  • Rarely, or never, wants to engage in sexual activity
  • Avoids intimacy
  • Cannot get aroused or stay aroused during sexual intercourse, even if she wants sex
  • Cannot have an orgasm
  • Experiences pain during sex

Most frequent causes of sexual problems in women

Sex is influenced by both biological and psychological factors, and both aspects can cause problems when it comes to female sexuality:

  • Getting older A woman’s sex drive often decreases with age. This can be a problem if one partner wants to sex more often than the other.   
  • Hormonal changes – During perimenopause and menopause there is a lower concentration of estrogen. This can cause vaginal dryness making sex more painful.
  • Illnesses – Illnesses like cancer, bowel diseases, arthritis, and depression may cause sexual problems.  
  • Medications – Medicine for blood pressure, depression, and chemotherapy can decrease sex drive or make it difficult to have an orgasm.
  • Fear of an unwanted pregnancy
  • Stress and anxiety

How to enjoy sex again

Sometimes it is not necessary to take medications to improve sexual intercourse.

These are a few recommendations:

  • Get plenty of rest and eat well.
  • Limiting alcohol, drugs, and tobacco could make you feel better about sex.
  • Do Kegel exercises, which consist in tightening and relaxing the muscles of the pelvis.
  • Focus on other sexual activities, not just intercourse.
  • Use birth control that works for both you and your partner. Discuss this ahead of time so you are not worried about an unwanted pregnancy.

When your lack of sexual interest deserves a visit to your doctor

Call your doctor if: 

  • You experience pain or other symptoms related to sex.
  • Intercourse is suddenly painful.
  • You think you may have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • You experience headaches or chest pain after sex.
  • You are worried about your relationship.

What to expect at the office visit:

  • A physical exam, including a pelvic exam.
  • Questions about your relationships, sexual practices, attitudes towards sex, other medical problems you might have, medicines you are taking, and other possible symptoms.

Treatment for sexual dysfunction in women

  • Get treatment for any other medical problems you might have, as this can help with sex problems.
  • Your provider may change or stop a medicine you are taking. This generally helps improve sexual problems.
  • Your provider may recommend that you use estrogen tablets or cream to put in and around your vagina to help with dryness.
  • If your provider cannot help you, they can refer you to a sex therapist.

The so-called female Viagra

This is the good news many women have been waiting for to increase or get back their sexual desire.

The Food and Drug Administration approved flibanserin, a drug sold by the name Addyi, to treat generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women.
The medication does not treat a physical problem but rather acts on the chemical substances in the brain to improve sexual desire. Women who are taking Addyi should do so every night and follow their doctor’s instructions closely.

Flor Rodríguez
Flor Rodríguez

Flor Rodríguez is an Emmy-award winning journalist with more than 25 years experience as a TV and digital producer and writer in the US Hispanic market.