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Female sexual dysfunction – symptoms, causes and risk factors

Female sexual dysfunction is a medical term which is used for persistent, recurrent problems with the sexual desire, response, pain or orgasm. They distress you or strain your relationship with your partner. There are many women who experience female sexual dysfunction at some point of their lives. This condition can happen at any stage of the life. It can be life-long or it can be acquired later in life. [1] It can happen in certain sexual situations or it can happen in all sexual situations. Sexual response involves a complex interplay of relationships, lifestyle, beliefs, experiences, emotions and physiology. Disruption of any component can affect the sexual desire, satisfaction or arousal and the treatment often involves more than one approach.

Symptoms of female sexual dysfunction

Symptoms of this condition [2] will depend on the type or types of female sexual dysfunction which woman has:

  • Sexual pain disorder: You have pain which is associated with vaginal contact or sexual stimulation.
  • Orgasmic disorder: You may have persistent or recurring difficulty in achieving orgasm after sufficient sexual arousal and ongoing stimulation.
  • Sexual arousal disorder: Your desire for sex might be intact, but you may have difficulty with arousal or are unable to become aroused or maintain arousal during sexual activity.
  • Low sexual desire: This is the most common female sexual dysfunction which involves a lack of sexual interest and willingness to be sexual.

If your sexual problems worry you or affect your relationship, then you should make an appointment with your doctor for evaluation.

Female sexual dysfunction causes

Female sexual dysfunction causes

Sexual problems often develop when hormones are in flux, such as during menopause or after having a baby. Also there are major illnesses that could lead to female sexual dysfunction such as heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular), diabetes or cancer, can contribute to sexual dysfunction. Factors, which are in many cases inherited that can lead to sexual dysfunction or dissatisfaction include:

  • Psychological and social: It is known fact that the untreated depression or anxiety can contribute or cause sexual dysfunction, as can a history of sexual abuse and long – term stress. Also worries that are part of pregnancy and demands of being a new mother can also have similar effects. When you have long – standing conflicts with your partner about sex or other aspects of your relationship can also diminish your sexual responsiveness. Problems with the body, religious and cultural issues can also lead to female sexual dysfunction. [2,3]
  • Physical: Any number of medical conditions, including bladder problems, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure and cancer can lead to sexual dysfunction. Also there are some medications which can decrease your sexual desire and your body’s ability to experience orgasm, such as chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, blood pressure medications and antidepressants. [2,4]
  • Hormonal: Lower estrogen levels after menopause can lead to changes in sexual responsiveness and genital tissues. When there is a decrease in estrogen, then this could lead to decreased blood flow to the pelvic region, which can result in needing more time to build arousal and reach orgasm, as well as less genital sensation. The vaginal lining can become thinner and less elastic, particularly if you are not sexually active. These factors can lead to dyspareunia (painful intercourse). Also the sexual desire is decreasing when the hormonal levels decrease. The hormone levels of your body can also shift during breast – feeding and giving birth, which can lead to vaginal dryness and it can affect your desire to have sex. [5]

Risk factors for female sexual dysfunction: There are some factors which can increase your risk of sexual dysfunction:

  • A history of sexual abuse
  • Emotional or psychological stress, especially with regard to your relationship with your partner [2,3]
  • Certain medications such as high blood pressure medications or antidepressants [2]
  • Liver or kidney failure [6]
  • Neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis [7]
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Depression or anxiety [2,3]


[1] Pasqualotto EB, Pasqualotto FF, Sobreiro BP, Lucon AM. Female sexual dysfunction: the important points to remember. Clinics. 2005;60(1).

[2] Lorenz T, Rullo J, Faubion S. Antidepressant-induced female sexual dysfunction. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016;91(9):1280–6.

[3] Yazdanpanahi Z, Nikkholgh M, Akbarzadeh M, Pourahmad S. Stress, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction among postmenopausal women in Shiraz, Iran, 2015. Journal of Family & Community Medicine. 2018;25(2):82–7.

[4] Mota RL. Female urinary incontinence and sexuality. International Brazilian Journal of Urology. 2017;43(1):20–8.

[5] Berman JR, Berman L, Goldstein I. Female sexual dysfunction: incidence, pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment options. Urology. 1999;54(3):385-91.

[6] Vecchio M, Navaneethan SD, Johnson DW, et al. Treatment options for sexual dysfunction in patients with chronic kidney disease: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 2010;5(6):985–95.

[7] Hajiaghababaei M, Javidan AN, Saberi H, et al. Female sexual dysfunction in patients with spinal cord injury: a study from Iran. Spinal Cord. 2014;52:646–9.

Pardhan Singh
Pardhan Singh
A seasoned natural therapist with degree in Ayurvedic Medicine (BAMS) successful in treating various diseases through Ayurvedic treatments. You can contact Pradhan at [email protected]


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