Female sexual dysfunction

Persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire — that distress you or strain your relationship with your partner — are known medically as female sexual dysfunction.

Many women experience problems with sexual function at some point in their lives. Female sexual dysfunction can occur at all stages of life, and it may be ongoing or happen only once in a while.

You may experience more than one type of female sexual dysfunction. Types include:

  • Low sexual desire. You have diminished libido, or lack of sex drive.
  • Sexual arousal disorder. Your desire for sex might be intact, but you have difficulty or are unable to become aroused or maintain arousal during sexual activity.
  • Orgasmic disorder. You have persistent or recurrent difficulty in achieving orgasm after sufficient sexual arousal and ongoing stimulation.
  • Sexual pain disorder. You have pain associated with sexual stimulation or vaginal contact.

Sexual response involves a complex interaction of physiology, emotions, experiences, beliefs, lifestyle and relationships. Disruption of any of these components can affect sexual drive, arousal or satisfaction. Fortunately, female sexual dysfunction is treatable.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors

Female sexual dysfunction can happen at any age. Sexual problems often develop when your hormones are in flux — for example, after having a baby or during menopause. Sexual concerns may also occur with major illness, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.

Your problems might be classified as female sexual dysfunction if you experience one or more of the following — and you're distressed about it:

  • Your desire to have sex is low or absent.
  • You can't maintain arousal during sexual activity, or you don't become aroused despite a desire to have sex.
  • You can't experience an orgasm.
  • You have pain during sexual contact.

When to see a doctor

If sexual problems affect your relationship or disrupt your peace of mind, make an appointment with your doctor for evaluation.

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