Many things in a woman's life can lead to a sexual problem. Over time, an untreated sexual problem can have a growing impact on your quality of life. If the problem makes you feel uncomfortable and/or unsatisfied, sex can become a tense and unwelcome experience.
Women normally experience a physical change
during sexual arousal, as blood swells areas of the
vulva. If those areas aren't stimulated enough, a woman may not feel as much sexual pleasure.
Chronic (ongoing) illnesses, such as
arthritis, can affect sexual desire, enjoyment, and
Medicines for many medical conditions also affect
desire and arousal.
Pain during sex
Any history of pain during sex may cause a
woman to avoid sex or find it unpleasant.
Pain during sex may result from:
- Vaginal dryness. Lack of lubrication in the vagina is the most common cause of pain with sex.
- Vaginismus (say "vadj-uh-NIZ-mus"). This is an involuntary contraction of the vagina. It's often related to a lack of experience with sex.1 Sometimes it stems from a trauma such as rape or sexual abuse. But there can also be a medical cause, such as:
- Scars in the vaginal opening from injury, surgery, or childbirth.
- Pelvic infections, such as vaginitis or Bartholin glands infections.
- Chronic pain conditions, such as vulvodynia.
- Skin conditions, such as lichen sclerosus or lichen planus.
- Irritation from douches, spermicides, or latex condoms.
- Dyspareunia (say "dis-puh-ROO-nee-uh"). This is physical pain that occurs during entry into the vagina, during deep thrusting, or after sexual intercourse.
Partner and emotional influences
Living situations that give
couples very little privacy can interfere with feelings of
Your partner's level of sexual skill and attention
can play a big part in your sexual enjoyment. A positive,
respectful connection between partners sets the stage for sexual interest and
Positive sexual experiences help build a healthy
sexuality. On the other hand, a woman who has had a forced sexual experience is
likely to have mixed feelings about sex. In one study, 1 out of 5 women reported
having been forced to do something sexual. This was most often done by someone
they were close to.2
Some women feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, or self-conscious during sex.
A woman may avoid sex because she's afraid that an illness (such as cancer) or surgery (such as mastectomy or hysterectomy) will make sexual activity unpleasant for one or both partners.
Or she may be afraid of spreading a sexually transmitted infection, such as genital herpes.
As a woman ages, she may have sex less often because she no longer has a partner or her partner has lost interest in or is no longer able to have sex. Many older women also report problems with lubrication.
Women may notice less desire for sex after menopause.
It may take longer to feel
sexually aroused, and
orgasms may be briefer. But orgasms still will offer
mental and physical pleasure to most women.
Women can feel sexual pleasure throughout their lives. But those
who stop having sex after menopause have more shrinking and drying of the
vagina than women who continue to have sex.2