Types and Causes of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Female sexual dysfunction is when a woman experiences persistent issues related to:

  • Physical changes or conditions that impact intimacy
  • Having pain during sex activity
  • Hypoactive (low) sexual desire disorder — having low or absent desire for sexual intimacy that causes distress
  • Having reduced or excessive arousal of genital organs
  • Female orgasmic disorder — having reduced or absent orgasm during sexual activity that causes distress
  • Having decreased overall satisfaction with sexual function

Common underlying causes can include pregnancy, surgery, cancer, diabetes, menopausal changes, anxiety, depression, trauma, and even medications. There are a number of conditions that can result, all of which can lead to problems with sexual function.

Vaginal, Urinary, and Bowel Dysfunction

  • Vaginal dryness resulting in decreased lubrication in and around the vagina
  • Vaginismus, when vaginal muscles spasm when something is entering it, like a tampon
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, when the vaginal and surrounding organs bulge, which can be often result from childbirth, hormonal changes, and other medical or lifestyle conditions
  • Urinary incontinence (leakage)
  • Bowel dysfunction, such as constipation or fecal incontinence (leakage)


  • Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Vulvodynia, when there is chronic pain affecting the labia, clitoris and vaginal opening
  • Vulvar inflammatory conditions such as lichen sclerosus, a chronic condition that causes thin, white patches of skin in the genital area
  • Vaginal burning
  • Pain after trauma to pelvis, due to surgery, personal trauma, injury, or childbirth
  • Noncoital sexual pain, or genital pain that occurs at times other than sexual intercourse

Hormonal Concerns

  • Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), menopause symptoms that come from having lower levels estrogens and other hormones in the body. Symptoms include:
    • Burning and irritation in the vagina
    • Dryness, discomfort, or pain with intercourse
    • Urinary problems
    • Hormonal imbalance disorders, related to sex hormones
  • Hypoactive (low interest) sexual desire disorder, a low level of interest in sex that leads to distress.
  • Hyperactive sexual desire disorder, or high interest in sex that leads to distress.
  • Female orgasmic disorder, when there is an inability to achieve orgasm that causes distress.
  • Sexual arousal disorder, a lack or absence of sexual fantasies, desire for sexual activity, and/or inability to maintain sexual arousal response that causes distress.