It’s certainly not an easy thing to talk about, but women – just like men – can experience sexual issues that interfere with their relationships, their health, and especially their well-being.
So, though they may be embarrassed or shy, they shouldn’t hide their problems or ignore them, experts urge.
“After all, sex is a physical function that’s key to overall wellness,” Dr. Dixie Mills and women’s health Nurse Practitioner Marcy Holmes assert in an online article for Women to Women, which runs a health care center in Yarmouth. “Plus,” they add, “it can make you feel more vital and alive.”
Here are some of the major female sexual issues, and what you can do about them.
Low sex drive
The cause can be psychological or physiological (or likely a combination of both), according to experts and health care professionals, but the result is the same: Little to no interest in sex. Also, the problem could be long term, or one that has manifested with time, childbirth or menopause, according to the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in New York.
Some of the causes, according to the center, include hormone insufficiencies (especially with menopause), certain medication use, exhaustion after having children, issues with body image and acceptance, various arousal disorders, or, more severely, a history of physical or sexual abuse.
Another trigger, according to Holmes and Mills of Women to Women, is low testosterone. Believe it or not, testosterone is fundamental to a woman’s sex drive – but some don’t have normal circulating levels of the hormone, often due to chronic stress.
Although hormone treatments and testosterone therapy are options, experts urge women to deal with the problem in a holistic way, such as establishing or re-establishing connections with their partner, making dietary and lifestyle adjustments and reducing stress. Or, if they’re willing to be adventurous, Mills and others urge visits to sex shops, reading the latest sex books, or trying erotic accessories, movies or new techniques with their partner.
In any case, however, it all starts with broaching the topic with your doctor and coming up with a plan.
In other cases, various underlying factors can make sex simply too painful for women. According to the Medical Center for Female Sexuality, some causes can include insufficient lubrication, tightened muscles, nerve issues, stress, or various psychological factors.
Some women also have conditions such as vulvodynia, where burning, itching, stinging, general soreness, rawness and throbbing occur outside the vagina, the Medical Center for Female Sexuality explains on its website. Meanwhile, others suffer from vaginismus, when entry into the vagina is impossible or extremely painful. This can be psychological (resulting from fear, anxiety or phobias), as well as physiological, most notably due to involuntary muscle spasms, according to the medical center. Another condition is dyspareunia, or pain that occurs anywhere in the vagina, usually upon penetration, but also upon entry, suddenly after intercourse, or in general through burning or aching, the medical center explains. Causes range from inadequate lubrication, to injury, to tension in a relationship (among many other reasons), and the issue should be solved by working with a doctor to determine the location of the pain and the trigger, the center advises.
In general, experts note, some ways to resolve painful sex involve the use of vaginal dilators, increasing lubrication, performing stretching and breathing exercises, or partaking in physical therapy or hormone therapy.
At some point in their lives, about half of all women will experience dryness, thinning, tightening and atrophy in their vulva or vagina, according to Holmes and Mills.
Dryness can be caused by personal hygienic products, diet, certain medications, hormonal or estrogen imbalances, skin disorders or stress, Holmes writes on the Women to Women site. Natural solutions include staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, choosing gentler hygiene products, adding soy to the diet (which promotes lubrication and “plumping” of the tissues, Holmes says), taking nutritional supplements, or using vitamin E suppositories, natural estrogen products, or over-the-counter lubricants.
Inability to reach orgasm
Many women, believe it or not, haven’t, according to the Medical Center for Female Sexuality. What’s more, only about 30 percent achieve orgasm with intercourse, the center reports.
Still, it is something that can be learned, experts urge.
First, however, women who are particularly concerned about their inability to achieve orgasm should have an exam to ensure they aren’t suffering from low hormone levels, poor blood circulation, lack of lubrication, or insufficient blood flow to the vaginal area, the health center reports – all of which could be caused by certain medical conditions, surgeries, or medications (typically anti-depressants).
But otherwise, achieving orgasm is a combination of learning about your body, relaxing and discovering the stimulation that works for you.
“Your body and mind are in this together,” reads the center’s website, which urges women to seek out sex therapists or doctors who specialize in female sexuality.
Whatever you do, though, give yourself time. “It cannot be stressed enough that this takes time and patience,” MCFS explains on its website, “and cannot be rushed or pressured.”
A Closer Look
For more details about women’s sexuality, visit www.centerforfemalesexuality.com or www.womentowomen.com
Facilities like the Medical Center for Female Sexuality can help women recognize and often overcome sexuality issues.Taryn Plumb is a ?Maine-based freelance writer who has written for a variety of publications, including daily and weekly newspapers, websites, trade and business journals, wedding, art and regional-themed magazines.