Sexual dysfunction has many causes, but it’s almost always treatable.
From a lack of sexual desire, to painful intercourse, it’s not uncommon for women to experience some form of sexual dysfunction. Research suggests about 43 percent of women will experience sexual concerns or complaints at some point in their lives.
Many problems can keep women from enjoying sex, including:
Talk to Your Doctor
Occasional problems with sexual function are common. But if a problem lasts more than a few months or becomes a concern for you and your partner, talk to your doctor about it.
“It’s important to talk with your physician about any concerns you might have,” said Terri L. Woodard, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with DMC Women’s Health Services. “I don’t think women always realize how their concerns and complaints might be interrelated. For example, I once had a woman tell me she had no desire for sex. But when we talked some more about it, I realized what she really meant was that it hurt when she had sex.” A physical exam soon revealed the patient had vaginal atrophy, a thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to a decline in estrogen. The condition is not uncommon in menopausal women — and fairly easy to treat with a localized hormone preparation.
Of course, no two women are alike. Some women benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy and education. Others require medical treatments and localized hormone therapy. Still others may need to talk with a sex therapist or psychiatrist. But the first step is having an open conversation with your physician.
Dr. Woodard believes many women have misconceptions about sex. “A lot of what I do is simple education, whether it’s about sex itself or about a woman and her body,” she said. “Some women don’t really have a clear idea of what their anatomy is down there. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking out a mirror and showing her what’s what and dispelling some myths that many women have about sex and their bodies.”
While there are many treatment options for sexual concerns, Dr. Woodard also believes it’s important for women to have realistic expectations for sex. “We watch Sex and the City and think that our sex lives should be like Samantha’s,” Dr. Woodard said. “But that’s not necessarily a realistic portrayal of sex and it shouldn’t be our goal. The goal should be healthy sexuality — being able to connect with someone and experience pleasure in whatever form that takes.”
While it’s commonly used in medical terminology, Dr. Woodard doesn’t really like the term “sexual dysfunction” because it implies there is normal and abnormal sexual function. “But what is normal? What’s normal for one woman may not be normal for another. That’s not really dysfunction,” she said. “Instead, I think it’s important to look at the strengths that an individual or couple has and use those strengths to improve their experience and enjoyment of sex.”
To make an appointment with Dr. Woodard or another DMC Women’s Health Services specialist, please call 1-888-DMC-2500.
43 percent of women will experience sexual concerns or complaints at some point in their lives
Smoking, alcohol and drugs can affect sexual response in both men and women
Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Terri Woodard, MD
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology