Sexual health is an integral aspect of overall well-being, contributing to emotional, mental, and physical satisfaction. Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a common yet often under-discussed issue that can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. There are different types of FSD, each with different symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Female Sexual Dysfunction encompasses a range of persistent, recurrent problems that interfere with a woman’s ability to experience sexual satisfaction. These issues can affect various stages of the sexual response cycle:
Low sex drive, or libido, is one of the most common iterations of female sexual dysfunction. It is characterized by a general lack of interest in having sex or being sexual in any way.
Women with this type of female sexual dysfunction may have difficulty becoming physically aroused or maintaining arousal during sexual activity. Unlike low libido, the desire to have sex is intact, but the body’s sexual response is delayed, interrupted, or non-existent.
Some women with female sexual dysfunction may also struggle to achieve orgasm despite adequate arousal and stimulation.
Conditions such as dyspareunia (pain during intercourse) or vaginismus (involuntary muscle spasms preventing penetration) can cause physical discomfort and emotional distress. This, in turn, may lead to other types of female sexual dysfunction, such as low libido or arousal disorder.
In some cases, FSD may have one direct cause. More often, however, it is a combination of physical, environmental, and psychological factors:
Hormones are one of the biggest culprits when discussing female sexual dysfunction. Declining estrogen levels, in particular, have a direct impact on libido and sexual response. In addition to lower sex drive overall, peri and postmenopausal women may experience decreased blood flow to the pelvic region, reducing gentital sensation. Likewise, lower estrogen levels cause the vaginal lining to thin and become less elastic. This can lead to discomfort during sex and a negative association with intercourse.
Pregnant, post-natal, and/or breastfeeding women may also experience hormonal fluctuations that impact their sexual desire and function.
Certain medications, including antidepressants, antihypertensives, and hormonal contraceptives, may have side effects that impact sexual function. Chemotherapy and radiation can also significantly affect sexual desire.
Type II diabetes can affect the body’s vascular and nervous systems, which are critical in sending the correct signals and sensations to the body before and during sex. Other diagnoses that can cause female sexual dysfunction include cardiovascular disease, kidney or liver disease, alcohol use disorder, and substance abuse disorder.
A hallmark of depression is a loss of interest in things, including sex. Anxiety, likewise, can make it difficult for a partner to feel safe and comfortable during intercourse. Furthermore, the medications used to treat anxiety and depression can result in anorgasmia.
History of Abuse
A history of sexual abuse may result in a lack of trust or even overt fear when it comes to sex. Feelings of worthlessness and embarrassment are common in abuse victims, who may feel they do not deserve or want a healthy, sexual relationship.
Trust is an integral part of female sexual satisfaction. Unresolved relationship issues, poor communication, or a feeling of power imbalance may lead to signs of female sexual dysfunction.
The word “mood” is often used when describing sexual scenarios, and for good reason. In most cases, it is important that the atmosphere is conducive to sex. While not every encounter demands rose petals and candles, a safe, inviting environment is a requirement for many women. This is especially true for individuals with anxiety, fear, or self-esteem issues surrounding sex.
The treatment for FSD will depend on the type, cause, and symptoms. It will typically be a combination of therapies designed to improve both the mental and physical response to sex:
Medical Interventions: medications to treat chronic conditions that contribute to FSD may be recommended. Medical weight loss, for example, can help patients with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels and restore proper vascular and neurological functioning. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can address both natural and premature drops in estrogen levels.
Psychological Counseling: if FSD is caused by a mental health issue or history of abuse, counseling will be an important step in achieving a positive outlook toward sex. Your provider may weigh the pros and cons of prescribing medication to help treat your mental health disorder.
Lifestyle Modifications: adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management, is essential for both physical and mental health. It can also help treat chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, that contribute to FSD.
Female Sexual Dysfunction is a complex issue with various potential causes, but there are plenty of safe and effective treatment options. By fostering open communication, embracing lifestyle changes, and exploring appropriate treatments, women can reclaim their sexual well-being and enhance their overall quality of life.
If sexual dysfunction is negatively impacting your relationships or ability to enjoy life, the best place to start is with a functional medicine provider. He or she will help you identify the root cause of your symptoms and utilize a holistic approach in treating them. In Omaha, Balanced Body Health & Wellness is dedicated to helping women achieve physical and emotional harmony. We understand that your journey is unique to you, and this is reflected in our personalized treatment plans. Call or go online today to schedule your first appointment.