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Female sexual dysfunction: Cures and culprits

Female sexual dysfunction is a condition in which a woman finds it difficult to experience desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. © Shutterstock

If the idea of having sex doesn't excite you anymore, or if you experience vaginal pain during intercourse, then you might be suffering from female sexual dysfunction. Read on to know more about the condition and ways to overcome it.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : March 25, 2019 8:46 PM IST

Aren't you enjoying the intimate moments with your partner between the sheets? Do you find it impossible to reach orgasm or sexual climax? Well, you are not alone. Millions across the globe suffer from this condition, medically known as female sexual dysfunction (FSD). A study published in the Journal of Mid-life Health revealed that the incidence of FSD is quite high among fertile women in the age bracket of 26-30 years. Stress was found to be one of the main reasons associated with female sexual dysfunction.

Medically, FSD is defined as a condition in which a woman finds it difficult to experience desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. Pain during sexual activity is also considered to be a major factor contributing to FSD. Sexual dysfunction has been classified in 5 categories based on the nature of sexual difficulty a woman faces. These are hypoactive sexual desire disorder (continuous absence of any sexual fantasies), sexual aversion disorder (persistent fear of sexual contact), sexual arousal disorder (recurrent inability to be sexually aroused), orgasmic disorder (continuous inability to reach orgasm), and dyspareunia (experiencing pain during sexual intercourse).

TRIGGERS BEHIND SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION

Hormones play a vital role in every aspect of your well-being. Any change in their secretion can affect your sexual urge also. Moreover, there are various diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer that can lead to sexual dysfunction. Psychological issues like stress and depression could also be the culprits. Here is a low-down on the factors that can trigger female sexual dysfunction.

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Medical conditions

Some of the non-sexual diseases including kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and bladder problems can cause sexual dysfunction. Also, there are few medications like antihistamines, antifungals, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs that can potentially interfere with your sexual desire or ability to experience orgasm. These medications can reduce blood flow to your genitals. Breast or genital tract surgery can affect your sexual desire too. Additionally, gynaecological conditions like endometriosis, pelvic muscle problems and cystitis (infection in urinary system), can also lead to female sexual dysfunction.

Hormonal issues

After menopause, the levels of the hormone oestrogen deplete in a woman's body. This hormone plays a vital role in your sexual responsiveness. When oestrogen stops being secreted or is produced minimally, flow of blood to your pelvic region goes down leading to decreased genital sensation. This physiological condition delays arousal and orgasm. Moreover, oestrogen makes your vaginal lining thick and elastic. So, when the levels of this hormone are low, you will experience pain during sexual intercourse. Also, after childbirth, or a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), decreased estrogen affects your vaginal tissues leading to dryness. This, in turn, takes a toll on your sexual desire.

Psychological and social factors

Chronic psychological issues including stress, anxiety and depression can potentially cause sexual dysfunction. Low self-esteem, unresolved conflict with partner, trust issues, history of sexual abuse, and pregnancy-related issues also contribute to this problem.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

If you are experiencing the symptoms of female sexual dysfunction, you must visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor will firstly evaluate the symptoms through a physical test. This involves checking the health of your reproductive organs. Also, she will perform a Pap smear test. This screening method is used for cervical screening to rule out cancer or a pre-cancerous condition. Your mental health (any symptom of anxiety or depression) along with other factors contributing to sexual dysfunction like relationship problems, alcohol consumption, and sexual trauma will also be evaluated. Once the cause is understood, you will be recommended appropriate treatment options.

LINE OF TREATMENT

The underlining cause of sexual dysfunction decides the treatment regimen and duration. THe success of the treatment depends not only on the doctor, but also on the patient's cooperation. If it is due to a reversible physical condition, the success rate is good. In fact, psychological problems behind this condition like fear, stress, and anxiety can also be successfully managed with counselling and educating the patient (and her partner too!) about sexual behaviors and appropriate responses. However, hormonal issues are a little tough to tackle. Here are the medical and non-medical treatment options available for sexual dysfunction.

Hormone Therapy

In this therapy, localised oestrogen is provided to a woman's body through pills, patches, vaginal ring or cream. This therapy improves your vaginal tone and elasticity. Also, it increases blood flow in the vagina and enhance lubrication. The success of oestrogen therapy varies depending on various factors: Your age, the dosage, and your chance of suffering from heart ailments, cancer, etc. Talk to your doctor to understand the risk benefit ratio. Another hormone therapy, known as androgen therapy is available for female sexual dysfunction. It has been found that the male hormone, androgen, which is present in females in very low amounts, plays a significant role in sexual function of both men and women. Though the efficacy of this therapy for FSD is still controversial, a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that it can potentially increase a woman's libido. A hormonal therapy needs to be closely monitored by your doctor.

Indulging in non-coital behaviour

Non-coital behaviors include physical stimulation activities before intercourse. These behaviors may include sensual massage, masturbation, use of videos and books that have erotic content.

Communicating with your partner

Sharing your sexual dissatisfaction is not a bad thing. In fact, it can help you and your partner have better experience on bed. Discuss your likes, dislikes, discomfort and fantasies with your partner. Give him feedback so that he can work for greater intimacy the next time around. However, be polite while discussing these things.

Acquiring a healthy lifestyle habits

If you are an alcohol addict, stop drinking. Drinking too much alcohol can also affect your libido, says a paper called Recent Developments in Alcohol published by the American Medical Society on Alcoholism. Its consumption can hamper your sex life. Join a de-addiction programme if need be. Also, work out regularly as exercise improves your blood circulation ensuring higher blood flow to your genitals, elevates your mood, and increases your stamina too.

Psychological counselling

A sex and relationship therapist can help you in this tough time. He/She will educate you about ways to increase your body's sexual response and enhance intimacy with your partner. Your counsellor may suggest you some couple exercises or recommend reading material that may help increasing your sexual desire.

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