- Take the Menopause Quiz
- Essential Screening Tests Every Woman Needs Slideshow
- Surprising Benefits of Sex Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Women's Health - Menopause Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Menstruation - Symptoms
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
- Introduction to women's health
- Women's general health and wellness
- Female anatomy
- The female reproductive System
- Female hormones
- Diseases more common in women
- Cancer in women
- Women's cosmetic concerns
- Fertility, birth control, and infertility
- The mature woman - post menopause
Quick GuideWomen's Health: Nutrition and Health Care Reform
Sexuality deals with a woman's sexual attitudes and practices. During her lifetime, a woman goes through many changes, not only in her body, but perhaps also in attitude and lifestyle.
The sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, have a profound influence on a woman's sex life. Women also produce testosterone, as it is required for sexual arousal. In humans, the sexual impulse is not tied to reproduction and women will engage in sexual activity even when they are not fertile.
Little is known about what facilitates or inhibits feminine sexual arousal. It is estimated that 50 million American women have difficulty with sexual arousal. Problems include low sexual desire, sexual aversion, difficulty with sexual arousal (like impotence in men) and pain during intercourse (dyspareunia).
Physical exercise may increase sexual arousal whereas chronic illness, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and depression can inhibit sexual arousal. Alcohol and certain drugs such as tranquilizers can also inhibit the sexual response.
Following the success of sildenafil (Viagra) and other male impotence drugs, there is considerable research now being conducted on drugs that improve blood flow to the vagina and the vaginal region which may assist female sexual arousal.
Fertility, birth control, and infertility
Fertility is the ability to bear children. Most women wish to restrict when and by whom they conceive. In the U.S., 94% of women age 15-44 use some method of birth control in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Ideally, the use of birth control is the responsibility of both sexual partners. The choice of a birth control method should be a joint decision. In reality, the ultimate responsibility for birth control more often than not rests with the woman. Her choices include oral contraceptives, spermicides, diaphragms, cervical caps, rhythm methods, contraceptive implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). In general, longer-term protection (for example, oral contraceptives, implants, or IUDs) not requiring last minute decision-making provides better protection (a 0.1-3% "failure rate") than methods (for example, condoms or spermicides) used just before intercourse (5%-15% "failure rate").
Every woman who wishes to use birth control needs to decide which method is best suited for her. She must also determine which methods offer her the most protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection and AIDS.
The opposite of fertility is, of course, infertility or the inability to bear children. Infertility affects one in five couples in the U.S. Female infertility tends to become more of a problem as a woman ages, especially after age 35. Regardless of age, a woman and her partner need to be medically evaluated by an infertility specialist to determine the cause for the infertility and, if possible, to correct the problem. The options currently available to infertile couples have been expanded. These include the advanced reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or utilization of donor eggs and/or sperm. Adoption, as always, is another option for childless couples.