Sexual (Sex) Problems in Women (cont.)

How Is a Female Sexual Problem Diagnosed?

To diagnose a woman's sexual problem, the doctor likely will begin with a thorough evaluation of symptoms and a physical exam. The doctor may perform a pelvic exam to evaluate the health of the reproductive organs and a Pap smear to detect changes in the cells of the cervix (to check for cancer or a pre-cancerous condition). He or she may order other tests to rule out any medical problems that may be contributing to the problem.

An evaluation of your attitude regarding sex, as well as other possible contributing factors (fear, anxiety, past sexual trauma/abuse, relationship problems, alcohol or drug abuse, for example) will help the doctor understand the underlying cause of the problem and make appropriate recommendations for treatment.

How Are Female Sexual Problems Treated?

The ideal approach to treating sexual problems in women involves a team effort between the woman, doctors, and trained therapists. Most types of sexual problems can be corrected by treating the underlying physical or psychological problems. Other treatment strategies focus on the following:

  • Providing education. Education about human anatomy, sexual function, and the normal changes associated with aging, as well as sexual behaviors and responses, may help a woman overcome her anxieties about sexual function and performance.

  • Enhancing stimulation. This may include the use of erotic materials (videos or books), masturbation, and changes to sexual routines.

  • Providing distraction techniques. Erotic or non-erotic fantasies, exercises with intercourse, music, videos, or television can be used to increase relaxation and eliminate anxiety.

  • Encouraging non-coital behaviors. Non-coital behaviors (physically stimulating activity that does not include intercourse), such as sensual massage, can be used to promote comfort and increase communication between partners.

  • Minimizing pain. Using sexual positions that allow the woman to control the depth of penetration may help relieve some pain. The use of vaginal lubricants can help reduce pain caused by friction, and a warm bath before intercourse can help increase relaxation.

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