Many women have problems with sex at some stage in their life. Here's a look at some forms of female sexual dysfunction (FSD) and advice on where to get help if it affects you.
According to the Sexual Advice Association, sexual problems affect around one-third of young and middle-aged women, and around half of older women.
To identify the reasons behind sexual dysfunction, both physical and psychological factors have to be considered, including a woman's relationship with her partner.
Loss of desire
Loss of desire, or lack of sex drive, affects some women at certain times of life, such as during pregnancy, after having a baby, or times of stress. But some women experience it all the time.
A lack of sex drive can have a range of physical or psychological causes, including:
previous mental or physical trauma
excessive alcohol and drug use
Sex drive can also fall if a woman's natural testosterone levels drop. Testosterone is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands, so levels can drop if these are removed or they're not functioning properly.
These can be divided into two types:
primary – when a woman has never had an orgasm
secondary – when a woman has had an orgasm in the past, but can't now
Some women don't need to have an orgasm to enjoy sex, but an inability to reach orgasm can be a problem for some women and their partners.
Reasons why a woman can't have an orgasm can include:
fear or lack of knowledge about sex
being unable to "let go"
not enough effective stimulation
mood disorders – such as depression
previous traumatic sexual experience
Research is being done into certain medical conditions that affect the blood and nerve supply to the clitoris to see whether this affects orgasm.
Pain during sex
Pain during sex – also called dyspareunia – can be a result of vaginismus.
Vaginismus is when muscles in or around the vagina go into spasm, making sexual intercourse painful or impossible. It can be very upsetting and distressing.
It can also stem from relationship problems, fear of pregnancy, or painful conditions of the vagina and the surrounding area.
It can occur if the woman associates sex with pain or being "wrong", or if she's had vaginal trauma, such as childbirth or an episiotomy.
It can be treated by focusing on sex education, counselling and using vaginal trainers, also known as vaginal dilators.
Vaginal trainers are cylindrical shapes that are inserted into the vagina. A woman will gradually use larger sizes until the largest size can be inserted comfortably. Some women may wish to try using their fingers instead.
Sex after menopause
Pain during sex is common after the menopause as oestrogen levels fall and the vagina feels dry.
This can affect a woman's desire for sex, but there are lubrication creams that can help. Ask your GP or pharmacist