Dr Goh Lit Ching, DTAP Clinic

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As in men, sexual problems or dysfunctions are quite common in women, but often underreported and not openly discussed with friends and family. These problems can range from recurring problems with sexual response, desire, orgasm, or pain that causes distress in a woman.

Usually, the typical response cycle consists of four stages: desire (arousal stage), arousal (plateau stage), orgasm (climax), and resolution. Failure to reach any of these milestones will disrupt sexual satisfaction and create problems down the line.

How common is sexual dysfunction in women?

A recent study of Singaporean women reported that 38.3% had sexual problems and 22% reported sexual pain in the genitals.

Types of sexual dysfunction

The 4 types of sexual dysfunction also correspond to the stages of the response cycle. Commonly reported symptoms of sexual dysfunction can be classified into the following categories:

  1. Low Libido / Sexual Desire – This condition refers to a lack of interest in sex or a low willingness to participate in sexual activity.

  2. Sexual Arousal Disorder – Although sexual desire remains intact, a woman may have difficulty becoming aroused or there is an apparent inability to maintain the necessary level of arousal throughout the sexual process.

  3. Orgasmic disorder – In some women, orgasms may be delayed or even not occur at all (anorgasmia) even after sufficient sexual arousal and stimulation. This can potentially create a vicious cycle that causes a woman to lose interest in sex due to her inability to reach an orgasm. Other studies have determined that about 7% to 10% of women have experienced some kind of anorgasmia.

  4. Sexual Pain Disorder – As the name suggests, this is any pain experienced at any stage of intercourse (dyspareunia), which could potentially lead to frustration for both parties due to an experience unsuccessful and unpleasant sexuality.

Causes and treatment of female sexual dysfunction

Although there are many causes of sexual dysfunction, they can be divided into three broad categories.

Medical causes

  • Chronic medical causes such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease can contribute to the way the body responds to sexual stimulation.

  • A history of surgery or radiation therapy may contribute to vaginal dryness and painful intercourse due to scar tissue at the surgical site.

  • Long-term use of medications such as antidepressants or blood pressure medications.

  • Underlying gynecological conditions, such as vaginismus or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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In most cases, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a ban on smoking and alcohol as well as regular exercise will improve sexual health. If the dysfunction is caused by drugs, switching to another class of drugs may alleviate the problems.

Additionally, devices such as a vaginal dilator can help gradually train the pelvic floor muscles and relieve painful intercourse, especially for women with vaginismus.

If there is a risk of underlying undetected vaginal infections, it is important to get tested and treated immediately at the clinic.

Hormonal causes

Certain stages in life such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause can also contribute to a woman’s sexual dysfunction due to hormonal imbalance. For example, hormonal changes during pregnancy or breastfeeding can potentially contribute to vaginal dryness which could lead to painful intercourse.

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Vaginal dryness can be resolved with topical lubricants, while pelvic floor physiotherapy sessions can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles, especially after undergoing a major body change like postpartum or postmenopause.

Emotional causes

Sexual dysfunction can also occur due to mood disorders such as anxiety or depression or body image issues, which can affect a person’s level of confidence and a person’s ability to have a fulfilling sexual experience. . Apart from this, long standing conflicts or relationship issues with one’s partner can also affect sexual responsiveness and willingness to participate in sexual activity.

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Mood disturbances can be alleviated with counseling sessions, while long-standing problems with her partner may require couple counseling sessions with a clinical sex therapist. However, the most important thing is to ensure constant communication and support with your partner in order to understand each other’s wants and needs.

To sum up, sexual dysfunction in women is common, but most cases are reversible with the right approach, so don’t wait and suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor today and get on the right track to incredible sexual well-being!

About Dr Goh Lit Ching
Dr Goh Lit Ching received his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the University of London in the UK. Her clinical interests include family medicine, women’s health, and preventive care through health screening. Dr Goh is a strong supporter of primary prevention and early detection improving disease outcomes.

About DTAP
Founded in 2005, DTAP clinics (Dr. Tan & Partners), pioneers of the GP plus model, or “general medicine with special interest” in Singapore, provide holistic and comprehensive medical care to everyone. We provide basic general medicine services with a key focus on HIV and STD screening and management, men’s health (andrology), women’s health, aesthetics, and chronic disease management services. DTAP clinics are located in Singapore and Malaysia, and DTAP Express is the first clinic in Singapore to offer express self-test kits for STDs. “DTAP to Home” is an extension of DTAP Teleconsult and DTAP Delivery for medicines, supplements and health support services.