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Erectile Dysfunction In Women

erectile dysfunction in women

What is Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

The World Health Organisation defines female sexual dysfunction (FSD) as “the various ways in which an individual is unable to participate in a sexual relationship…she would wish.” FSD is classified into a range of disorders depending on the specific nature of the sexual difficulties a woman encounters. They are:

  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: The persistent or recurrent lack of sexual fantasies, thoughts, desires and receptivity to sexual contact.
  • Sexual aversion disorder: The persistent or recurrent fear and/or aversion of sexual contact.
  • Sexual arousal disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to become sexually aroused, often characterised by inadequate vaginal lubrication for penetration.
  • Orgasmic disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to orgasm.
  • Dyspareunia: Pain during sexual intercourse.

Women suffering from FSD become anxious or distressed about being unable to engage in or experience sexual activity as they wish. However, other women may experience sexual difficulties (e.g. inability to orgasm) which do not cause them distress. These women do not have FSD.  Amongst women with FSD, hypoactive sexual desire and orgasmic disorders are the most commonly reported.

What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can be a result of a physical or psychological problem.

Physical causes:

Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases, hormonal imbalances, menopause plus such chronic diseases as kidney disease or liver failure, and alcoholism or drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.

Psychological causes:

These include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, or the effects of a past sexual trauma.


Lower estrogen levels after menopause may lead to changes in your genital tissues and sexual responsiveness. A decrease in estrogen leads to decreased blood flow to the pelvic region, which can result in less genital sensation, as well as needing more time to build arousal and reach orgasm.

The vaginal lining also becomes thinner and less elastic, particularly if you're not sexually active. These factors can lead to painful intercourse (dyspareunia). Sexual desire also decreases when hormonal levels decrease.

Who Is Affected by Sexual Dysfunction?

Both men and women are affected by sexual dysfunction. Sexual problems occur in adults of all ages. Among those commonly affected are older adults, and they may be related to a decline in health associated with aging.


Symptoms vary depending on what type of sexual dysfunction you're experiencing:

Low sexual desire. This most common of female sexual dysfunctions involves a lack of sexual interest and willingness to be sexual.

Sexual arousal disorder. Your desire for sex might be intact, but you have difficulty with arousal 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.

Risk Factors for Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

While sexual dysfunction is wide spread in Australia, it is more common in particular groups of women.  Factors associated with sexual dysfunction in women include:

History of sexual assault, rape or sexual coercion. This may be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth in the past year
  • Breastfeeding
  • Menopause
  • Urinary incontine
  • Vaginal prolapse
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hypertension, and hypertension medications
  • Cancer
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Depression, and antidepressant medications
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress

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