Female Sexual Dysfunction – Will Not Have To Rob You Of A Happy & Healthy Sex Life
Sexual dysfunction does not have to rob you of a happy & healthy Sex Life. Today’s society delivers many mixed messages about sex. Sexual images abound on television, at the movies and in advertising. Yet at the same time, honest and open discussion of sexuality and problems related to sex have long been considered a taboo. Deep-seated cultural, family and religious beliefs often prevent many people from talking about this important topic. When a concern about sex arises, women for the most part have remained silent and embarrassed, not knowing where to turn for help.
You’re Not Alone
Fortunately, in the past few years, the topic of sexuality has literally “come out of the closet”. Women are not only talking more freely about their concerns, but the medical community is responding with answers. This greater awareness has brought some surprises: female sexual dysfunction is more prevalent than expected. Some medical experts believe that nearly half of all women will face some type of problem in their lifetime.
The good news is that treatment of female sexual dysfunction is not only important, it is available. Every woman has the right to a sex life that fulfills her needs. If sex-related problems are affecting your physical and emotional well being or your relationship, it is time to ask for help.
What is Sexual Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is simply a problem related to sex that deprives you of a full and satisfactory sex life. The problem may be limited to one partner or it may be a long-standing pattern that has been present in all of your relationships.
Sexual dysfunction is usually divided into four categories: desire disorders, arousal disorders, orgasm disorders and pain during sex. It is often difficult to identify in which are the problem is occurring as there is considerable overlap. Many physical and emotional factors have a role in sexual dysfunction, from poor communication with a partner to chronic medical conditions.
Only a comprehensive physical exam and honest, confidential discussion with the physician can help identify the cause or causes before appropriate treatment can begin. The doctor may order lab tests and other tests, such as ultrasound or laparaoscopy to help diagnose the problem and rule out underlying medical conditions.
What is Desire Disorder?
The most common sex-related problem for women is lack of desire or low libido. This type of disorder is called a desire disorder.
If you are not interested in sex, have few or no sexual thoughts or try to avoid sex, you may have a desire disorder. If lack of desire is a new challenge and not a long term issue, it might be related to unresolved conflicts in your current relationship – feelings like anger, frustration, resentment, unhappiness or boredom that remain unexpressed. These feelings may prevent or block your interest in having sex with that partner.
A long-term lack of desire may stem from your family, religious and cultural beliefs about sex, which make you feel guilty about having a pleasurable experience. Past or present abuse in a relationship or a childhood trauma can affect your interest in sex.
When Lovemaking Ends Too Soon
Sexual experiences that are continually uncomfortable or frustrating – for example, lovemaking that continually ends before you reach orgasm, – may make you less and less interested in having sex with that partner or future partners. The expectation of decreased desire can lead to decreased or no interest.
Lack of desire also can be a temporary situation aggravated by the stresses in your life. Worry over finances, job pressures, conflicts about raising children, anxiety and loss of sleep all play a role in how much interest you may have in sex. Women who have many tasks to accomplish as wife, mother and career women may simply be tired and have little time to think about sex.
What is Arousal Disorder?
If you have thoughts about sex, but have trouble getting aroused or maintaining sexual excitement, you may have an arousal disorder. The body’s normal response to sexual excitement is to send additional blood flow to the pelvic area, swelling the genital tissues, enlarging the clitoris, relaxing the pelvic and vaginal muscles and triggering lubrication. If this does not happen, the body isn’t prepared and sex may be unpleasant or even painful.
Arousal disorder may result from lack of education or awareness on the part of the woman or her partner. With little knowledge about female anatomy or the role of the clitoris, it may be difficult to know what feels good. Foreplay that is too short or poor techniques used to create excitement may diminish the experience.
Some women may find it hard to focus their concentration during sex, especially if they are tired or stressed or having conflict in the relationship. Fear of being intimate with a partner may be an unconscious thought that blocks feeling of pleasure.
There may be physical causes, such as endometroisis, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, incontinence or the fear of being incontinent. Depression may affect both your interest in having sex and your ability to become aroused.
Medical illnesses, including diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis and cardiovascular disease can affect your body’s ability to become aroused. Surgery, such as a hysterectomy and mastectomy can affect your self-image. Some cancer treatments including radiation therapy, can trigger sex-related problems. Traumatic injury can damage blood vessels and nerves, and reduce blood flow to the pelvic and genital area.
Certain medications – anti-depressants, blood pressure medicine, tranquilizers, oral contraceptives and other prescription and over-the-counter drugs also can affect the body’s ability to become or remain aroused. Abuse of alcohol and drugs can also play a role.
What is Orgasm Disorder?
Orgasm disorders are clearly linked with arousal disorders. Without sufficient arousal, it is not possible to have orgasm.
Like disorders of desire or arousal, emotions have a powerful affect on ability to achieve orgasm. Unhappy relationships, life stresses and past traumatic experiences can prevent you from being fully present and practicing effective techniques for stimulation are very helpful in learning how to achieve orgasm. Research reports that most women can achieve orgasm with clitoral stimulation, while only half regularly attain orgasm during intercourse alone.
What Role Do Hormones Play?
Some women find that sexual desire, arousal and ability to have orgasm change when hormones fluctuate, such as during menopause, pregnancy and the post-postpartum time right after childbirth.
While pregnancy and post-partum are temporary stages and don’t require treatment, there are several effective treatments if menopause-related changes diminsh sexual pleasure.
At menopause, when hormone levels drop, many women find that for the first time, they have a problem reaching orgasm. The genital tissues may begin to change; the vagina can shorten, atrophy and feel dry and quickly irritated during intercourse.
Oral hormone replacement therapy with a combination of estrogen, progesterone and sometimes testosterone may be prescribed to improve sexual desire and arousal, and vaginal rings may also be effective and used in place or oral therapy. Viagra, prescribed for male impotence, has been a topic of discussion for female sexual dysfunction, but its use remains controversial and not clinically documented.
What About Pain During Sex?
Pain during sexual intercourse or during penetration of the vagina with an object (including a vibrator) can be classified as dyspareunia or vaginismus.
Dyspareunia can have a variety of causes, including dryness of the vaginal tissues, lack or arousal, an allergic reaction to the use of contraceptive foams or jellies, condoms that are irritating or not lubricating, forceful penetration of the vagina or pressure against the urethra. Infections, trauma, childbirth and surgery also can cause bruising or laceration of the vagina. Deep pelvic pain may be related to pelvic disease, cervical cancer or other medical illness.
Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the muscles surrounding the vaginal opening. It is considered a learned response – an unconscious desire to prevent vaginal penetration. It may be the result of painful intercourse, past trauma or abuse or some other emotional factor.
Treating Sexual Dysfunction
The physical examination, history and confidential discussion will help both you and the physician identify why and when the sexual dysfunction occurs and the best course of treatment. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of dysfunction and whether it is related to physical or emotional issues.
Underlying medical conditions can be treated appropriately. Prescription medications that affect sexual function can be changed. Infections can be cleared up with medication or better attention to hygiene, including washing any objects (including vibrators) used during sex.
But the exciting news is that new treatments designed to improve both sex drive and sexual pleasure are now available for women. Prescription pills, nonprescription creams and even FDA approved devices have recently all demonstrated effectiveness in treating female sexual dysfunction.
Lubricants Help Vaginal Dryness
Hormone replacement therapy may improve lubrication. Vaginal dryness can also be improved with liberal use of water-soluble lubricants (do not use petroleum-based products, which can cause infection). Lubricants can be purchased over-the-counter at many stores.
You may consider changing products if certain condoms, contraceptive foams or jellies cause irritation. To avoid any discomfort, vaginal irritation or pressure against the urethra, you can change positions used during intercourse. A woman on top can more easily control the frequency, pressure and duration of intercourse. A proper fitting diaphragm may also reduce any pressure against the urethra.
Give Yourself Permission to Learn What Feels Good
A better understanding of sexual technique and foreplay can be gained through videos, magazines and books. Ask the physician for recommendations. You may also be encouraged to explore your body, either with your partner or alone in masturbation. You may create an atmosphere of romance, lengthen the time you normally give to foreplay or use the massage or music to help the mood and reduce anxiety. Vary your normal routine, introduce new positions or use a vibrator for additional stimulation. Often, Degel exercises are prescribed for a period of two to three months to help women locate and strengthen their perinea l and vaginal muscles. By toning these muscles, it may be easier to achieve orgasm.
Vaginal pain related to involuntary muscle spasm may respond to the use of vaginal dilators or tampons of varying sizes. You will be asked to insert these objects into the vaginal opening, gradually stretching it as you learn to consciously relax the muscles. Often, women with this concern are referred to a special therapist who is knowledgeable about sexual issues.
Getting Help For Emotional Issues
If sex-related problems are linked to emotions – unresolved feelings, conflicts in your relationship or past or present trauma, good communication may help. You can talk with the physician, who may refer you to a psychologist. You and your partner may benefit from counseling. If life stresses are identified as a major issue, you may be encouraged to review your priorities, take time for yourself, get more sleep and find ways to relax and reduce tension.
Finding Sex Pleasurable Again
Feeling good about yourself sexually is important to every woman’s health and well being. Sexuality is often directly linked with self-image. Problems elated to sex – whether short-term or a long-standing pattern – can affect not only your confidence, but also your peace of mind and your relationship with your partner.
Never be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. Sexual dysfunction is a very common issue may women face. It may take courage to step forward and find an answer, but you will be richly rewarded. Every woman has the right to positive sexual experiences that fill her need for pleasure and intimacy.