Female sexual dysfunction: It’s time to talk!

Female sexual dysfunction is remarkably common, but it’s still very much a taboo subject. This leads to needless suffering. It’s time to talk…Many women have a common approach to their own sexual problems: They don’t talk about them, let alone seek help.It makes Laurie Tompkins sigh with frustration. “There are things that we just don’t discuss, and having a sexual dysfunction is one of them,” says LaurieTompkins.

Tompkins is an advanced practice registered nurse and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, based at the Vanderbilt Centre for Women’s Health in the United States And she’s now working to let women know that it is healthy to talk about their sexual health and any problems that they might be experiencing.

“It’s really important that women know that there are things that we can do for women’s sexual dysfunction,” Tompkins said. “I think a lot of women don’t even know that there are treatment options out there, and we do have good treatment options available.”

Taboo topic?

Most societies seem to marginalise intimate health, particular for women. This means that discussions about sex, and sexual health problems in particular, simply tend not to happen.

In contrast, erectile dysfunction treatments for men are widely known about and tend to be more widely discussed. Perhaps because of this lack of wider acknowledgement, women seem to feel too uncomfortable to bring up the topic of sexual pain or low libido, even with their closest friends, and even less so with their doctor.

Because of this, the vast majority of women won’t realise that female sexual dysfunction is actually pretty common. Estimates vary, but some experts believe that about one third of women in the U.S. For example have a low libido (or sex drive). And the numbers may be even higher than that. Plus, that doesn’t even take into account other common types of female sexual dysfunction, such as pain during sexual contact or stimulation.

“Any woman can be affected by it,” Tompkins said. “It can happen at various stages across the lifespan, too. It’s not uncommon for it to happen after you have a baby, for example.”

If you’re experiencing pain during sex or a lack of desire to have sex or other problems, it’s important to talk about it—to discuss the issue with your doctor or the nurse practitioner at your family practice. The problem may be relatively simple, or it could be more complex. But these are real problems, Tompkins emphasised, and there are steps that you can take together to determine the cause and then potentially address the problem.

Causes of female sexual dysfunction

According to the Hormone Health Network, an International Resource Centre based in the United States, there are three main causes of female sexual dysfunction causes:

  • Physical causes, which can include health problems like heart disease or diabetes, endometriosis or other gynaecological problems, nerve damage, or side effects from medications such as antidepressants, oral contraceptives or blood pressure treatments;
  • Hormonal causes, which may include a drop in oestrogen or a drop in testosterone;
  • Psychological/emotional causes, which may include stress, anxiety, relationship problems, depression, or religious or cultural beliefs about sex.

And for many women, their issue may have a mixture of these factors contributing to their difficulties. This can make treatment more challenging, but again, Tompkins said, treatment for female sexual dysfunction is available and worth trying.

“Don’t quit before you try some interventions,” said Tompkins. “Don’t give up.”

Female sexual dysfunction treatment options

Possible treatment options for female sexual dysfunction can include counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy; lifestyle changes such as weight loss or smoking cessation. In some cases, treatment may be as simple as switching from a medication with sexual side effects to one that won’t put a damper on your sexual desire or response.

In cases of pain experienced during intimacy, the use of specially designed dilators of varying diameter enable treatment to proceed at a comfortable pace in the privacy of home. Your sexual health is an important part of your overall health and well-being, Tompkins says, so don’t brush it off.

In truth, even doctors have been known to shy away from asking women about intimate health issue; “..you could go for years with something that could be treated,” says Tompkins.

In short, this is very much an area of health that women need to start talking about and claim back from the restrictive social taboos they’ve inherited. After all, as Tompkins notes, this is a matter that “..can affect the quality of your whole life.”

Further reading:

To further explore medication-free options for intimate healthcare, including pain during intimate relations and menstruation, they’re here. You can also explore more general alternative health and wellness options by returning to our home page here.

Source Material:
This primary source of material for this article was provided to us by the Vanderbildt University Medical Centre news publication ‘My Southern Health.’ It is published here under CCL copyright provisions. It has been updated, edited and added to in order to account for our readership, which is primarily based in the UK & Europe.