1. The struggle is REAL!

    Female Sexual Dysfunction, or FSD, is becoming one of the most highly studies areas of medicine in recent years. Women are driving a shift in research and clinical trials toward FSD. The latest research shows that female sexual dysfunction usually involves multiple conditions, rather than a single physical event. Such conditions such as stress, depression, low self-esteem, to other conditions such as painful sex, medication that lowers desire, and relationship issues can contribute to a woman experiencing FSD. In turn, treatment may involve multiple options that are individualized to the patient. Such treatment options may include, medicine, physical therapy, sexual health counseling, and/or a conversation with the female’s partner. Regardless, an embodiment of desire, arousal, and ultimately gratification, FSD is truly a concern and need for women of all ages.Most often, women are “embarrassed” or “too proud” to talk about their sexual shortcomings or even their sex life in general. They feel that there is no hope for them or nothing out there to fix their sexual problems. If you’ve even felt like your sex life isn’t where you want it to be, or that you have physical or emotional problems preventing you from actively wanting to engage in sex, there is news for you… YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

    A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999, found of an analysis of 1749 women’s responses, 43% were reported to have some form of sexual dysfunction. Categories included lack of sexual desire, difficulty in becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, anxiety about sexual performance, reaching orgasm too rapidly, pain during intercourse, or failure to derive pleasure from sex.

  1. There are varying types of sexual dysfunction!

    Typically FSD arises as a result of hormone fluctuation during pregnancy, menopause, or surgical menopause, but can affect any age. FSD may arise at any stage of life, be lifelong, or be acquired later in life. The American Foundation for Urologic Disease published a report in March of 2000, which proposed several different definitions regarding Female Sexual Dysfunction . These definitions encompass both physiologic and psychologic symptoms which may be experienced by women and warrant an FSD diagnosis.
Definitions of female sexual dysfunction (FSD)
Disorder Description
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder Chronic lack of interest in sexual activity
Sexual aversion disorder Persistent or recurrent phobic avoidance of sexual contact with a partner
Sexual arousal disorder Persistent or recurrent inability to attain or maintain sexual excitement
Orgasmic disorder Chronic difficulty in attaining (or inability to attain) orgasm following sufficient arousal
Dyspareunia Pain during intercourse
Vaginismus Involuntary vaginal spasms that interfere with penetration
Noncoital sexual pain Genital pain following stimulation during foreplay
† These must cause the woman distress in order to qualify as FSD.

Source: Basson R, et al. “Report of the International Consensus Development Conference on Female Sexual Dysfunction: Definitions and Classifications,” Journal of Urology (March 2000), 163:888–895.

  1. It’s OK to talk about it!

    It’s not the first thing you gush to your OBGYN when you pay them a visit. It’s often hard to explain it to a friend or partner. But talking about your sexual dysfunction is one of the first steps toward finding the cause and treatment for this common disorder, that so often is swept under the rug.
  1. Your current or previous ailments can contribute to your sexual function!

    You should always discuss any current or prior medical conditions and medication changes with your doctor, but few women contribute these to forms of sexual dysfunction. The reality is, as our bodies change with time or surgical procedures (i.e hysterectomy or oophorectomy), our sex lives may also be affected. The chart below, found in the Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, shows how several conditions, procedures, or medications can make an unsettling environment for sex.
Conditions, procedures, and drugs that can affect sexual response in women
Condition Effect(s)
Estrogen insufficiency Reduced vaginal lubrication
Testosterone insufficiency Reduced libido
Diabetes Reduced vaginal lubrication, vaginal infections
Thyroid, adrenal, pituitary disorders Reduced vaginal lubrication
Sickle cell anemia Decreased arousal and orgasm
Spinal cord damage, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis Decreased vaginal lubrication, arousal, orgasm
Vaginitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis Vaginismus, dyspareunia
Prolapsed uterus or uterine fibroids Decreased arousal
Kidney failure requiring dialysis Decreased arousal and desire due to hormone imbalance
Arthritis Chronic pain that limits motion
Sjögren’s syndrome Decreased lubrication
Procedure Effect(s)
Oophorectomy Decreased estrogen and lubrication
Episiotomy Tightness of vaginal opening
Mastectomy, colostomy Loss of self-esteem and sources of stimulation; fear of discomfort
Drugs Effect(s)
Antihypertensives (diuretics, beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers, anti-adrenergics) Reduced libido, difficulty reaching orgasm
Anticholinergics (propantheline, methantheline) Decreased lubrication
Barbiturates Various problems at high doses
Benzodiazepines (diazepam, alprazolam) Difficulty reaching orgasm
Antidepressants Difficulty reaching orgasm
Cancer chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, anti-estrogens) Vaginal dryness, reduced libido, difficulty reaching orgasm
Opiates (morphine, codeine, methadone) Reduced libido
Sources: Carlson K, et al. Harvard Guide to Women’s Health; Lightner D. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2002 77: 698–702
  1. Help is on the way!

    We are all aware of the help available to men including treatments for erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels – this was especially prevalent in the 1990s as these conditions were brought to the forefront of research and clinical trials. The men seem to be covered in their ability to treat their libido and sexual dysfunction issues so much that most women are left in the dark as to where to seek help in treating their condition.Much to our dismay, family physicians, gynecologists, therapists, and pharmacists are trained in these very fields of study. It is not uncommon for your physicians to have several solutions and treatments for sexual dysfunction – all you have to do is ask!

Treatments for female sexual dysfunction include a combination of nonmedical and medical approaches designed to address your mental and physical well-being.

Non-medical approaches include:

  • Practicing open and honest communication with your partner about your sexual needs, desires and dislikes
  • Using a lubricant and/or taking a warm bath before sex
  • Having sex in a different position (you may do better on top)
  • Lifestyle changes such as avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, getting more exercise and quitting smoking
  • Talking with a counselor or therapist who specializes in sexual and/or relationship problems
  • Learning and practicing pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor
  • Various treatments for pelvic pain if such pain is contributing to your problem

Medical approaches include:

  • Estrogen therapy
  • Testosterone therapy (this is controversial)
  • Treatment for depression or anxiety
  • Treatment for any medical condition that may be contributing to your sexual dysfunction1
  • Changing a medication that may be causing the problem
For more information about Female Sexual Dysfunction and how you can get help, visit the following websites:

International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health – http://www.isswsh.org
International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease – https://www.issvd.org
International Pelvic Pain Society – http://pelvicpain.org
International Society for Sexual Medicine – http://www.issm.info

  • Laumann EO1Paik ARosen RC. Sexual dysfunction in the United States: prevalence and predictors. JAMA. 1999 Feb 10;281(6):537-44.
  • Basson R, et al. “Report of the International Consensus Development Conference on Female Sexual Dysfunction: Definitions and Classifications,” Journal of Urology(March 2000), 163:888–895.
  • Carlson K, et al. Harvard Guide to Women’s Health;Lightner D. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2002 77: 698–702


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