Sexual Problems in Women

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 20, 2021
3 min read

Sexual dysfunction is a common problem among women. Almost half of all women have persistent problems with sex, such as little or no sex drive, trouble reaching an orgasm, or pain during intercourse.

Satisfying sex involves your body, mind, health, beliefs, and your feelings toward your partner, among other factors. Here are some possible causes behind problems in your sex life.

Heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and even simple fatigue can make sex uncomfortable or painful. They can make it hard for you to get aroused or climax during sex.

Scarring from surgery or radiation treatment in your vaginal opening or in other parts of your genital area also can change your sexual experience. So can infections such as genital herpes.

Other possible causes include hormonal imbalance or physical changes related to:

  • Pregnancy (you may have sex less often or find it uncomfortable, especially during the third trimester)
  • Childbirth (your genitals may be less sensitive, you may have had a difficult delivery)
  • Breastfeeding (low estrogen levels may lead to vaginal dryness, you may lack energy for sex)
  • Menopause (vaginal dryness, lack of libido)

The right mood and a healthy, respectful connection with your partner play an important role in sexual intimacy. But there may be factors that leave you feeling self-conscious, fearful, or uninterested. Reasons may include:

Drinking can make orgasm longer to achieve or feel less intense. Tobacco smoking and long-term use of heroin and other illegal drugs also can lead to sexual problems.

Some medications can make sex less pleasurable, dampen sex drive, or cause vaginal discomfort. Types of medications include:

See your doctor right away if you suddenly have pain or unusual syptoms during sex, like a headache, or if you think you’ve been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. 

For other kinds of sexual dysfunction, a range of therapies can help. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, check your health, order blood screens or other tests, and rule out other possible causes.

Medical treatments may include:

  • Drugs to raise low libido (desire for sex)
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles to help achieve better orgasm
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to take before intercourse to lower pain

Other advice to improve your intimate experience may include:

  • More open communication between you and your partner,
  • Making time for sex
  • Improving intimacy with your partner
  • Healthy habits, such as minimizing alcohol, getting exercise and eating a healthy diet
  • Therapy or counseling to help you manage stress or anxiety, or work through feelings of fear or shame in regards to sex
  • Vaginal lubricant for dryness or lessen pain during sex
  • Vibrators and other tools to enhance arousal
  • Techniques on how to reduce distractions and be more present during sex