Female sexual dysfunction
Female sexual dysfunction
Persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire — that distress you or strain your relationship with your partner — are known medically as female sexual dysfunction.
Many women experience problems with sexual function at some point in their lives. Female sexual dysfunction can occur at all stages of life, and it may be ongoing or happen only once in a while.
You may experience more than one type of female sexual dysfunction. Types include:
Sexual response involves a complex interaction of physiology, emotions, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle and relationships. Disruption of any of these components can affect sexual drive, arousal or satisfaction. Fortunately, female sexual dysfunction is treatable.
Female sexual dysfunction can happen at any age. Sexual problems often develop when your hormones are in flux — for example, after having a baby or during menopause. Sexual concerns may also occur with major illness, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
Your problems might be classified as female sexual dysfunction if you experience one or more of the following — and you're distressed about it:
When to see a doctor
Several factors contribute to sexual dissatisfaction or dysfunction. These factors tend to be interrelated.
Some factors may increase your risk of sexual dysfunction:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have ongoing sexual difficulties, such as low desire or lack of arousal, and it distresses you, make an appointment with your doctor. You may feel embarrassed to talk about sex with your doctor, but this topic is perfectly appropriate. A satisfying sex life is important to a woman's well-being at every age and stage of life.
You may have a treatable, underlying condition, or you may benefit from lifestyle changes, therapy or a combination of treatments. Your primary doctor may diagnose and treat the problem or refer you to a specialist.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Basic questions to ask your doctor
Don't hesitate to ask more questions during your appointment as they occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
To diagnose female sexual dysfunction, your doctor will:
Your doctor may also refer you to a counselor or therapist specializing in sexual and relationship problems.
Treatments and drugs
Female sexual dysfunction has many possible symptoms and causes, so treatment varies. Communicating your concerns and understanding your body and its normal response to sexual activity are important steps toward gaining sexual satisfaction.
Women with sexual concerns most often benefit from a combined treatment approach that addresses medical as well as relationship and emotional issues.
Nonmedical treatment for female sexual dysfunction
Medical treatment for female sexual dysfunction
To treat sexual dysfunction tied to an underlying medical condition, your doctor might recommend that you:
Treating female sexual dysfunction linked to a hormonal cause might include:
The risks of hormone therapy may vary, depending on whether estrogen is given alone or with a progestin, your age, the dose and type of hormone, and health issues such as your risks of heart and blood vessel disease and cancer. Talk with your doctor about benefits and risks. In some cases, hormonal therapy might require close monitoring by your doctor.
Potential treatments that need more research
Issues surrounding female sexual dysfunction are usually complex, so even the best medications aren't likely to work if other emotional or social factors remain unresolved.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To boost your sexual health, practice these healthy lifestyle habits:
More research is needed, but promising therapies for improving sexual satisfaction include:
Coping and support
At each stage of your life, you may experience changes in sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction. To better adapt:
Sexual response often has as much to do with your feelings for your partner as it does with physical sexual stimuli. Reconnect and discover each other again.
Last Updated: 2012-09-25
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