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Our Health Information Database is provided by A.D.A.M. the leading provider of electronic and printed information for professionals and consumers in healthcare and industry. It provides authoritative, reliable content written and reviewed by an editorial board who represent a variety of specialty areas. This board reviews and evaluates all healthcare information to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and can be used with complete confidence. And now you have access to the same authoritative, trusted clinical information relied upon by health professionals around the world.

Special Considerations


This article may contain information on medical procedures that are not recommended or endorsed by Catholic Health Partners. Promotion of this topic is prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. In the Ethical and Religious Directives, Catholic health institutions are prohibited from condoning contraceptive practices. Married couples should be given information about natural family planning as well as the church’s teachings on responsible parenthood. The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only. It is not provided as a professional service or as medical advice for specific patients.

Female sexual dysfunction

Definition

Sexual dysfunction in women may involve a reduction in sex drive, a strong dislike of sexual activity, difficulty becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, or pain with sexual activity or intercourse.

Alternative Names

Frigidity; Sexual dysfunction - female

Considerations

Traditionally, sexual dysfunction in women was thought to be largely due to psychological problems. Recent research is beginning to uncover many physical causes for sexual problems in women. While many sexual problems have an underlying psychological component, possible physical causes must be ruled out in the initial examination.

Common Causes

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Changes related to menopause
  • Communication problems with partner
  • Damage to nerves due to surgery or trauma
  • Fear of pain, infection, or being pregnant
  • Feelings of guilt and shame about sex
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Infection or gynecological disease
  • Lack of appropriate stimulation
  • Lack of lubrication
  • Medication
  • Stress or fatigue

Home Care

Home care depends on the cause. Family planning and birth control may be helpful for problems caused by a fear of pregnancy.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if the problem is persistent or accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, which may include a pelvic exam. Your provider may ask detailed questions about relationships, current sexual practices, attitudes towards sex, other medical conditions you might have, medications you may be taking, and other possible symptoms.

Treatment for sexual dysfunction will depend on the cause. It may include changes in your current sexual activities, stopping or changing medications where possible, adding a new medication, or surgery. Referral to a specialist with expertise in treating sexual dysfunction may be necessary. Psychological counseling may be recommended.

References

Bhasin S, Basson R. Sexual dysfunction in men and women. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 19.

Shafer LC. Sexual disorders and sexual dysfunction. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 36.

Clayton AH, Hamilton DV. Female sexual dysfunction. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010 Jun;33(2):323-38.

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      Review Date: 9/11/2010

      Review By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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