Sexual dysfunction —?which includes problems with desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution —?is common in both women and men. In fact, 43 percent of women, and 31 percent of men, report some degree of sexual dysfunction, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And while both genders may deal with issues during intercourse, it’s often easier to pinpoint the problem in men, says Brett Worly, MD, an ob/gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Plus, “male sexual problems have become more socially acceptable to discuss with a doctor in ways that female sexual dysfunction has not,” he notes.
If you’re dealing with problems in the bedroom, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor, since sexual issues can be a sign that something else is going on with your health. Read on to learn about five common sexual problems in women —?and what you can do to resolve them.
1. Vaginal Dryness
Why It’s Happening: Vaginal dryness can result from hormonal changes that occur during breast-feeding or menopause. In fact, a study of 1,000 postmenopausal women published in January 2010 in the journal Menopause found that half of postmenopausal women experience vaginal dryness.
What You Can Do: Reach for an OTC lubricant before and during intercourse, such as K-Y Jelly, Aqua Lube, or Astroglide, suggests Dr. Worly. Also consider vaginal moisturizers like Replens. “Both lubricants and moisturizers can be used in tandem,” says Worly. “I tell my patients to use ‘lubricants for lovemaking’ and ‘moisturizers for maintenance.’” If your body needs a little extra assistance, ask your doctor about Osphena, a non-estrogen oral pill available by prescription that helps alleviate dryness and pain attributed to menopause.
2. Low Desire
Why It’s Happening: As hormones decline in the years leading up to menopause, your libido can go south, too. But low desire isn’t just a problem for older women: Half of females ages 30 to 50 have also suffered from a lack of lust, according to a national survey of 1,000 women. Low libido can result from a number of issues, including medical problems like diabetes and low blood pressure, and psychological issues like depression or simply being unhappy in your relationship. Certain medications, like antidepressants, can also be libido killers, as can hormonal contraceptives, according to a study published in June 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
What You Can Do: There’s no one-stop solution to boost libido, so talk to your doctor, who can help you get to the root of the problem. If the issue is emotional or psychological, they may recommend seeing a therapist. “A traditional or sexual therapist can help couples evolve from having the same old conversation patterns, life habits, and sexual habits to having a sexual relationship that’s fulfilling, invigorating, and romantic,” says Worly.
3. Painful Sex
Why It’s Happening: As many as 30 percent of women report pain during sex, according to a study published in April 2015 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Pain can be caused by vaginal dryness, or it may be an indication of a medical problem, like ovarian cysts or endometriosis, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Painful sex can also be related to vaginismus, a condition in which the vagina tightens involuntarily when penetrated.
What You Can Do: Talk to your healthcare provider to rule out medical issues like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or vaginismus. If those aren’t the problem, your doctor may recommend pelvic floor physical therapy, medication, or surgery to treat the cause of pain, says Worly. “It’s important to understand that the first treatment doesn’t always work, and sometimes multiple attempts at treatment are needed before you find success,” he says.
4. Arousal Problems
Why It’s Happening: The inability to become aroused may be due to a number of reasons, such as anxiety or inadequate stimulation (aka, you need more foreplay). If you experience dryness or pain during sex, it can also be harder to become turned on. Hormonal changes due to menopause or a partner’s sexual issues (like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation) can also make it more difficult to get in the mood.
What You Can Do: Work with your healthcare provider to ID the underlying reason you can’t become aroused, recommends Worly. He or she can help connect you with the right form of treatment to correct the problem, whether that’s seeking out sexual therapy, a medication (like hormones), or treatment for your partner’s problem, he says.
5. Trouble Reaching Orgasm
Why It’s Happening: “About 5 percent of perimenopausal women experience orgasm problems,” says Worly. Aside from hormone changes, an inability to reach orgasm may also be due to anxiety, insufficient foreplay, certain medications, and chronic diseases.
What You Can Do: Just like other forms of sexual dysfunction, it’s key to talk to your doctor to address the underlying problem before trying to treat it. In the meantime, try being more mindful while you’re getting it on by paying attention to the sensations as they happen. Research published in June 2015 in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that being mindful during sex can make it easier to achieve orgasm. It may also be useful to add a vibrator to your sexual repertoire, says Worly. “Vibrators are now sold at most pharmacies, both in the store and online, so it’s possible to buy them discreetly from the comfort of your home,” he notes.