A woman of any age can become less interested in sex or have a decreased sex drive. This condition is called sexual dysfunction.
In 1999, a national survey of people between the ages of 18 and 59 showed that sexual dysfunction was common among 43% of women and 31% of men. Women and men with poor physical and mental health are more likely to have a decreased sex drive. Someone who has had problems in sexual relationships is also more likely to have this condition.
Moreover, sexual dysfunction is closely linked with overall well-being because the female sexual response is more complicated than the male response. It is influenced to a greater degree by psychological and cultural factors. A woman's sex drive is guided by a complex system of signals between the brain, the ovaries, and other reproductive sexual organs. A healthy brain, more than a healthy body, dictates a woman's desire for sex. Any disruption in this complex interaction may cause a woman to be less interested in sex.
There are many different types of sexual dysfunction, including: a lack of interest in sex, known as decreased libido or LSI (lack of sexual interest)the inability to attain or maintain adequate vaginal lubrication and swelling response. This is called female sexual arousal disorder.painful intercourse, known as dyspareunia painful, involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles, known as vaginismus a delay or absence of orgasm
A woman with a decreased libido may: enjoy sex less than she used toavoid having sexhave fewer erotic dreamshave fewer sexual fantasie
Sexual dysfunction in women rarely has a single cause. The factors that may cause this condition include both physical and psychological causes.
Physical causes include: diabetes vaginal yeast infections urinary tract infections heart disease neurological disorders, such as stroke pelvic surgery or traumaside effects of drugs, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, narcotics, and illicit drugschronic liver disease chronic kidney disease menopause alcoholism heavy smoking of tobacco or marijuanadrug abuse breastfeeding recovery after childbirth
Psychological causes may include: stress from work, family, or relationshipschronic anxietyconcern regarding sexual dysfunctionmarital discordreligious or cultural beliefsunresolved sexual orientationdepressionprevious traumatic sexual experience, including rapehistory of incest or sexual abuse
Since sexual dysfunction in women is often linked to depression or underlying diseases, it may help to see a healthcare professional before it becomes a serious problem. Many of the underlying causes of sexual dysfunction are not preventable, but early treatment may minimize the woman's problems.
A healthcare professional will ask the woman about her medical and social history. Depending on the medical history, the following may be performed: physical exampelvic exam screening tests for depression complete blood count (CBC) urinalysis a blood test to measure follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) a blood test to measure luteinizing hormone (LH) serum estradiol testserum testosterone levelscultures of the vaginal discharge
Most cases of decreased libido are not related to physical problems, except for menopause. Usually there are other problems, like stress, depression, marital discord, spousal abuse, alcohol dependence, or drug problems.
The long-term effects of sexual dysfunction may be poor interpersonal relationships, marital discord, separation, and divorce. Poor self-esteem and a sense of failure may lead to chronic depression and anxiety.
Sexual dysfunction poses no risk to others. It may, however, cause a partner mental stress or lower self-esteem if he does not understand the underlying cause of his partner's sexual dysfunction.
Treatment depends on the cause. It may include: antidepressantstreatment for diabetes hormone replacement therapy androgen therapysildenafil (i.e., Viagra), a medicine to relax muscles and increase blood flow, particularly to the genital organsherbal remedies psychotherapy marriage counseling
Side effects depend on the therapy used. They may include: excessive hair, acne, greasy skin, weight gain, and elevated cholesterol in women using androgen therapyvaginal bleeding, breast tenderness, weight gain, abdominal bloating, and headaches in women using hormone replacement therapy diarrhea, sleep disorders, headaches, irritability, and sexual dysfunction in women using antidepressants
A woman's sex drive is a complex matter. It cannot be cured by taking a pill or talking about the problem. There are subtle stressors in a woman's life that may make her less interested in sex. These stressors are warning signs that she may be feeling emotional and psychological turmoil. This turmoil should be addressed in order to prevent future physical problems.
Teaching a woman to look for decreased sexual function, stress, and health problems is an important part of treating sexual dysfunction. A woman should report any new or worsening symptoms to her healthcare professional.
Understanding Your Body, Felicia Stewart, Felicia Guest, Gary Stewart, and Robert Hatcher, 1987
Maternity and Gynecological Care, The Nurse and the Family, Irene Bobak, Margaret Jensen, Marianne Zalar, Mosby Co., 1989