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Urology

Female Sexual Problems

Nearly half of all women suffer from sexual problems. Virginia Mason's sexual health specialists, in Seattle, can help.

Although erectile dysfunction in males has received most of the publicity in recent years, sexual dysfunction is actually more common in females. According to the National Health and Social Life Survey, 43 percent of females versus 33 percent of males experience sexual problems. In women, sexual problems can occur at any age, but are particularly prevalent during and after menopause. View female sexual problem treatment options.

Female sexual problems can be divided into two categories:

  • Physical conditions such as genital prolapse, narrowing of the vagina, genital dermatitis or clitoral abnormalities that can cause pain during sex.
  • Functional problems including sexual desire, sexual arousal or achieving orgasm.

Most patients have conditions arising from problems in more than one of these areas. If you have questions or would like more information about female sexual problems, call (206) 223-6772.

In a study of 1,622 women, patients self-reported the following sexual function issues.

Percentage of Women with Sexual Complaints: National Health and Social Life Survey

 Age  Number in Study  Sexual Dysfunction  Sexual Dysfunction  All Women (n=1,622)
18-29

153 

32% 

Lack of interest in sex 

33.4% 

30-39 

161 

32% 

Sex not pleasurable 

24.1% 

40-49 

101 

30% 

Trouble lubricating 

18.8% 

50-59 

53 

27% 

Pain with intercourse* 

14.4% 


Laumann EO, et al. JAMA 1999;281(6):537.           *Dyspareunia

The Complex Causes of Female Sexual Difficulties
Generally, a number of psychological and physical factors may contribute to sexual response. Attitudes stemming from past sexual experiences can play an important role. Religious and cultural beliefs and values may be factors. And of course, your partner may have attitudes, or physical challenges that create sexual difficulties as well.

Physical factors may include hormonal changes at menopause, leading to atrophy and sensitivity of the labia and vulva, vagina or clitoris. This can create extreme discomfort with intercourse. In addition, general health and lifestyle factors can lead to physical and psychological issues that interfere with normal sexual functioning. For example, medications you are taking can have side effects that reduce your desire for sex or your ability to have an orgasm. Sometimes anatomic problems, such as development of a normal vagina or urethra diverticulum, which are congenital, or painful scar tissue resulting from childbirth or surgery, can cause sexual function problems.

As the majority of patients have challenges in more than one of these areas, at the Virginia Mason Sexual Health Clinic, we look at the whole sexual function profile for each patient to achieve a long-term solution. View female sexual problem treatment options.

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