Female Sexual Dysfunction


Female sexual dysfunction refers to health problems that cause a woman to feel distress in one or more of these areas:

  • Desire
  • Arousal
  • Orgasm
  • Pain


This problem may be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menopause
  • Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • Certain health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
  • Female health problems, such as infections, endometriosis, and pelvic organ prolapse
  • Certain medicines, such as antidepressants and blood pressure lowering medicine
  • Relationship problems with one's partner
  • Past trauma, such as sexual abuse
  • Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and stress

Female Reproductive Organs

Fallopian Tube, Ovary, and Uterus
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem increases with age. The risk is also higher in women who have any of the causes listed above.


This problem causes a woman distress due to:

  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Not being able to become or maintain arousal during sex
  • Not being able to orgasm
  • Pain during sexual activity


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your sexual history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam may also be done if you are having any pain.

The doctor may look for signs of infection. This can be done with:

  • Urine tests
  • Cervical or vaginal fluid tests


The cause will need to be treated. Medical and non-medical treatments may be used. Some choices are:

  • Lubricants to ease pain, dryness, and irritation during sex
  • Stopping or changing medicines that are causing problems
  • Estrogen to ease pain and dryness
  • Mental health therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and limiting alcohol


The risk of this problem may be lowered by managing chronic health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental health issues.


American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Practice Bulletin 119 on female sexual dysfunction can be found in Obstet Gynecol 2011 Apr;117(4):996-1007.
Female sexual dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/female-sexual-dysfunction. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Overview of female sexual function and dysfunction. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/sexual-dysfunction-in-women/overview-of-female-sexual-function-and-dysfunction?query=Overview%20of%20Sexual%20Dysfunction%20in%20Women. Accessed February 25, 2021.
Your sexual health. American College of Obstretricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/your-sexual-health. Accessed February 25, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 02/25/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.