Female Sexual Problems Self-Care at Home
Treatment is not needed for all sexual problems. Some problems can be solved by you and your partner alone with a little openness and creativity.
- Some problems go away by themselves over time — patience and understanding are all that is required.
- Sometimes talking the problem out with your partner is enough. Women who learn to tell their partners about their sexual needs have a better chance of having a satisfying sex life.
- Try to make the solution is fun — think up ways to inject a little romance and excitement into your sexual routine.
Some strategies women use to overcome sexual problems:
- Set aside time to be alone or alone with your partner, without children and other distractions.
- Use erotic videos or books to increase stimulation.
- Masturbate to learn about what increases your arousal.
- Fantasize about what arouses you sexually; if appropriate, tell your partner about these fantasies.
- Use sensual massage and other forms of touch.
- Try new sexual positions or scenarios.
- Use relaxation techniques such as a warm bath before having sex.
- Use a vaginal lubricant to relieve arousal problems due to vaginal dryness.
Several excellent books are available in mainstream bookstores or from mail-order sources to help couples deal with sexual and communication problems. Many people prefer this “do-it-yourself” method to talking about these problems with an outsider.
Female Sexual Problems Medical Treatment
If the sexual problem is caused by a medical or physical problem, your health care professional or consulting specialist will suggest an appropriate treatment plan. This will vary, of course, depending on the nature of the problem. The plan may include medication, lifestyle changes, or surgery. Your health care professional may recommend counseling even if the problem is physical.
Effective therapies are readily available for some physical problems.
- Vaginal lubricants: These products are highly recommended for women with vaginal dryness. They can be bought in a drugstore without a prescription. They are available as creams, gels, or suppositories. Water-based products are the best choices. Oil-based products such as petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or baby oil can interact with latex condoms and cause them to break.
- Topical estrogen: These products can help make sex more comfortable for menopausal women with vaginal dryness or sensitivity. Estrogen is applied as a cream or vaginal insert. These products are available by prescription and are very effective for some women.
- Clitoral therapy device: The Eros clitoral therapy device has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat women with disorders of sexual arousal. The device consists of a small suction cup, which is placed over the clitoris before sex, and a small, battery-operated vacuum pump. The gentle suction provided by the vacuum pump draws blood into the clitoris, increasing pressure on the clitoral nerve. This device increases lubrication, sensation, and even the number of orgasms in many women who have used it. The device is available by prescription.
- Drugs: Sildenafil (Viagra) is the well-known “erection drug” for men. It is used to treat erectile dysfunction, a common sexual problem among men. No similar drug is yet available for women. The effects of Viagra in women have been studied, but results are not conclusive. In some studies, the drugs helped with arousal problems, but in other important studies, they did not. The drug has the same side effects in women as in men, including headache, flushing, nasal congestion and irritation, abnormal vision, and stomach upset. It can worsen retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary degenerative disease affecting the eye. Most importantly, it can cause dangerously low blood pressure and has been linked to unexplained heart attacks in men. Viagra cannot be taken by people who take a nitrate drug for a heart condition, because the combination can be deadly.
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant drug that has been used to treat certain cases of orgasmic disorders, and preliminary studies have confirmed its effectiveness in some patients. More research is needed to fully clarify the potential therapeutic role of bupropion in the management of female sexual disorders in general.
Hormone therapy (HT), formerly referred to as hormone replacement therapy (HRT): HT has been used to relieve symptoms of menopause for years.
- It comes in two forms, estrogen only and combination estrogen-progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. Estrogen generally is used for women who have had a hysterectomy, while HRT is used for women who still have their uterus, because the progestin protects the uterus from the effects of too much estrogen, especially uterine cancer.
- For many years, HRT was believed to have many beneficial effects for menopausal women, continuing the protective effect that estrogen provides naturally before menopause. These benefits were thought to include protecting against heart disease, high cholesterol, colon cancer, Alzheimer disease, and osteoporosis. New research findings published in 2002 called these beliefs into question. Long-term use of HT was linked to significantly higher risks of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, blood clots (from one kind of HT), and ovarian cancer (from estrogen therapy). The research did show that HT protects against osteoporosis and coloncancer, but the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits.
- HRT can be very effective in some women in relieving vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse, as well as “vasoactive” symptoms such as “hot flashes” and sleep problems.
- Most experts believe that short-term use of HT for treatment of menopausal symptoms is safe; it is recommended that women who choose to take HT do so for the shortest period of time possible and at the lowest effective dose.
- Each woman’s need for HT and risks in taking HT are unique to her. These should be discussed in detail with your health care professional.
- Use of HT in menopausal women is now considered on a case-by-case basis.
Female Sexual Problems Other Therapy
If the problem is one of lack of knowledge, your health care professional or a sex therapist can teach you (and your partner) about the sexual response cycle and the elements of sexual stimulation. Armed with this new knowledge, many couples can go forward on their own.
Psychotherapy can help a woman identify problems in her life that may be expressed as sexual problems.
- For some women these problems are fairly clear, including past sexual or other abuse, rape, or traumatic sexual encounters.
- For others, the problems may be less clear-cut, involving unresolved emotional issues or dissatisfaction with other areas of life.
- In either case, the therapist usually focuses on resetting the woman’s attitudes toward sex.
- The goal is to get rid of old attitudes that got in the way of enjoyable sex, establishing new attitudes that increase sexual responsiveness.
If the problem relates to your relationship, couples counseling is recommended.
The couples therapist is trained and experienced at helping couples recognize, understand, and solve their problems.
- First, the counselor explores the relationship to find the trouble spots.
- The counselor will recommend exercises and activities that will improve the couple’s communication and trust.
- If that can be accomplished, often the sexual problem can be solved more easily.
A sex therapist may take couples therapy one step further by focusing on the couple’s physical relationship. After identifying the couple’s attitudes about sex and the sexual problem, the sex therapist recommends specific exercises to refocus the couple’s attention and expectations. Specific objectives may include any of the following:
- Learning to relax and eliminate distractions
- Learning to communicate in a positive way what you would like
- Learning nonsexual touching techniques
- Increasing or enhancing sexual stimulation
- Minimizing pain during intercourse
Sex therapists often use what are called “sensate focus” exercises to treat sexual problems. The exercises start with nonsexual touching and encourage both partners to express how they like to be touched. The goal is to help both partners understand how to recognize and communicate their preferences.
Sex therapists can recommend exercises to help with vaginismus.
- One successful technique is the use of Kegel exercises. Many women are familiar with these from their childbirth education classes. Kegel exercises involve voluntary contraction and relaxation of the muscles around the opening of the vagina.
- Some women have been helped by using dilators to relax the vaginal spasms. A small dilator is placed in the vagina for 10 minutes, then removed. Larger dilators are used over time to train the vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises may improve the chance of success with this technique.