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Dealing with Female Sexual Dysfunction

Statistically, nearly half of all women in the developed world have experienced some form of sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. If you are one of them, you may feel embarrassed, frustrated, stressed or confused about the problems that prevent you from having satisfying sexual experiences. But, you should know that sexual dysfunction is not necessarily permanent. For most women, it is a treatable condition and many of them get their sex life back.

Here are a number of tips that women experiencing sexual dysfunction should follow to help them to deal with the condition, make it go away and keep it from returning:

Treat the underlying medical condition. Many cases of sexual dysfunction are due to another, seemingly unrelated, medical condition. In such a case, any effective treatment of sexual dysfunction must first address the underlying cause. For instance, if endometriosis is the cause, then surgery may be required. Endometriosis is the spread of endometrial tissue cells from the inner wall of the uterus to tissues outside the uterus. Once the underlying health condition is successfully treated, sexual problems usually go away and the patient can return to the same healthy sex life she enjoyed before the problems began. Time is a key factor here, so be patient. Sometimes women experiencing sexual function problems caused by a medical condition have unrealistic expectations of how quickly normal sexual relations will resume. Patients should realize, though, that an interruption in usual ability to experience sexual pleasure is perfectly normal. Therefore, after a cancer treatment, for instance, it may be best for the patient and her partner to schedule quiet time together and start slowly.

Check medication labels. Many medications that are commonly prescribed to treat different medical conditions can have sexual side effects. Pay attention to your medications by checking their labels for the possibility of causing sexual side effects and talk to you doctor about possible alternatives that are less likely to cause such adverse effects.

Get psychological help. About one third of all cases of sexual dysfunction originate from psychological sources, such as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (a persistent lack of sexual fantasy or desire). Many women with this disorder find mental health therapy very useful. Another example of psychological cause of sexual dysfunction in women is anxiety due to a history of sexual or physical abuse. In this case too, mental therapy from a professional counsellor can often greatly help in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction.

Talk to your partner. A very important step in treating sexual dysfunction is keeping communication open between the partners. Let your partner know your feelings about any physical changes, such as loss of a breast due to breast cancer. Be open to him about how you may work through anxiety about loss of a body part, gynaecologic changes or the remaining scars.

Try over-the-counter medications for vaginal dryness. Many women choose estrogen or even androgen therapy to treat their sexual dysfunction and reduce pain during intercourse. However, these medications, especially male hormones used in androgen therapy, can have serious side effects and health risks and may not be recommended for all patients. But there is a variety of non-prescription lubricants, creams and gels that work very well to alleviate vaginal dryness and pain during sex.

Do not drink or smoke. Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can affect not only the prognosis or treatment of an underlying medical condition responsible for sexual side effects, but also sexual function directly (more information on the effects of alcohol and smoking on sexual function).

Educate yourself. Find information about your body, sexual receptors and signals and changes in sexuality during and after pregnancy and due to menopause. Keep in mind that your body will change over time. Be ready for what may come naturally in order to avoid the anxiety that can cause sexual dysfunction.

Although periods of sexual dysfunction in a woman’s life are not always preventable, they often are treatable. With medicinal or psychological treatments, time, patience and open communication with both your doctor and your partner, you will soon be able to improve your sexual health.

Where to Find More Information:
American Family Physician
Healthy Women