You don't need to be embarrassed when you experience sexual difficulties. Many women feel inadequate when they admit that something isn't quite right in bed. Yet other women think their job is to pleasure their partner, and therefore they shouldn't complain about pain or discomfort.
But that's not the case: women have the right to a pain-free, fun, and pleasurable sex life. So don't hesitate to see a healthcare professional if you have issues.
Common problems for women have to do with orgasms – not being able to have one, or having it way later than expected.
But, interestingly enough, most sexual difficulties for women are described by their symptoms, such as pain or dryness. While men's conditions are actually given names, such as premature ejaculation.
Does that mean that women's problems are less important or less common? Absolutely not. It might, however, be due to the fact that more research has been done on male problems, or because male problems offer more opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry.
Some sexual difficulties are related to unhealthy lifestyle choices and can be prevented by leading a healthy life: eating a balanced diet, exercising, not smoking and minimizing alcohol consumption. Basically, anything that is good for your overall health is generally good for your sexual health. But of course living a healthy life does not mean you will be immune to having issues in bed – but it might reduce the risk.
When seeing a healthcare provider for issues, the doctor will likely ask you a lot of questions about your sexual, physical and emotional health. The diagnosis will be made a lot easier if you answer these questions as honestly and in-depth as you can – even though it might feel awkward. The doctor will also likely examine you. Don't be ashamed or afraid. Remember: it's very common to have problems and you are doing the right thing by getting them treated.
What you will have to resolve the problem depends on the sexual difficulty. Below we cover the most common conditions, their causes and their treatments.
Sexual difficulties affect both partners
Having sexual health issues will obviously have a negative effect on your sex life. If a woman is always worried about being in pain, it’s going to be difficult for her to relax and fully enjoy the experience – and that also means her partner might get stressed. The couple might even end up avoiding sex altogether and even intimacy in general – leaving everybody frustrated and unsatisfied.
So it's good to address any issues as soon as they arise.
Painful sex is quite common and can have many different causes – from having an infection to psychological trauma. If the pain is physical, it’s sometimes called dyspareunia
Dryness and vaginism can be two very specific causes for painful intercourse.
The pain can be around any part of the vagina and vulva, so anywhere on the outside or the inside. It can happen during or after sex.
Pain can lead to women losing interest in sex. This is understandable since why would you do something that causes unwanted pain?
So before pain can destroy your desires, see a healthcare professional to access the causes of your pain and seek treatment accordingly.
Because there are many different origins for the pain, the treatment will depend on your personal situation.
Having low libido means that you have no or almost no sexual desire. This can be either temporary or last for longer periods of time.
Low libido is often caused by psychological factors, such as not feeling good about yourself, relationship problems or fears associated with making love.
Low libido is very common. Many women experience it after giving birth. Smoking and drugs can also play a role, as can some medications.
Stress and depression can also play a factor when it comes to low desire.
Women with low desire will often shy away from initiating any kind of sexual contact and avoid the topic of sex with their partner. If they try to have sex, they might be having trouble getting aroused or relaxing.
In order to treat low libido, a healthcare provider will first need to figure out what causes the problem, and then develop a treatment plan based on this. This can involve psychological care or a change in medication.
Problems with lubrication can affect women of all ages.
There are many different causes for dryness, from being dehydrated to hormonal imbalances.
Dryness can cause sex to be uncomfortable or even painful, and, if it happens frequently, can affect the want to have sex.
Using lubricants can be a great short-term solution. But you should also see a healthcare provider to get to the bottom of the problem if it happens over longer periods of time.
Women generally also take longer than men to get aroused, so having more and longer foreplay and waiting until both partners are aroused may also help with dryness.
Orgasms and arousal problems
Some women aren't able to get aroused. This can be related to having low libido. Sometimes, a woman feels desire but the physical response is missing. Both can be distressing for both partners.
Illnesses such as diabetes or arthritis can cause blood flow to the genitals to decrease; which means the physical signs of arousal aren't happening.
Orgasms can also cause problems. They can either be delayed (it takes a long time to orgasm), or a woman may be unable to reach an orgasm altogether.
Women don’t always know how to get themselves to the point of orgasm. Getting to know your body, with your partner or through masturbation, can help. It’s okay to ask for your needs to be met.
Also, sometimes it’s a mental block, especially when women have been told it’s not okay for them to enjoy sex. Try to read up about enjoying sex and pleasure. Or talk to someone you trust about your concerns.
Other causes for sexual difficulties in women
Having your uterus removed may cause a number of changes to a woman's sex life.
She may experience a decrease in libido, problems with lubrication and less sensation when having sex.
These changes can be due to tissue damage caused by the surgery or the hormonal changes associated with the procedure.
Some birth control methods, especially hormonal ones, can impact a woman's sex life. Many changes are known side-effects of family planning methods and they often go away or decrease with time.
Common changes include a decrease in desire and dryness.
If the problem does not go away, it's a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider and discuss steps forward.
It can take up to a few months after giving birth until a woman is ready for sex again. And it can be and feel different than it was before.
This doesn't mean there is anything wrong, but you might have to adjust some expectations or change some things around.
Read more about sex after having a baby here.
Because women produce less oestrogen after going through menopause, difficulties may arise. Lack of desire is often associated with mood swings that come with the hormonal changes. Dryness and decreased sensation can also occur. Hormonal replacement therapy can be a good treatment option.