All this month Dr. Kate, an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City, is dedicating her column on EMandLO.com to the topic female sexual dysfunction, since that’s what she seems to get the most inquiries about. Click here for all the installments of her five part series being published every Thursday afternoon in January.
We have sex for many reasons: to be intimate with our partner, to show them affection or love, because we’re bored. Many times it’s because we feel desire, to touch and be touched. But it’s perfectly normal to have varying degrees of sexual desire throughout our lives and relationships. Most people don’t want sex all the time (I’ll refrain from male-bashing here), or in every situation.
So this means that all of the following are okay, and normal at various times in your life:
- to not want sex as much as you used to
- to not be fantasizing about sex as much as you once did
- to not want sex as much as your partner does
- to not want sex in relationship year 3 as much as you did in week 3
- to get into sex only after your partner initiates it, and not as often be the initiator (in doctor-speak this is “responsive desire” as opposed to spontaneous desire)
So when does decreased desire signify a problem? When your lack of desire for sex causes you significant distress. Notice the distress element of this definition (officially known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder). Some women are perfectly content with relatively low levels of desire—it only becomes a problem when you’re not happy with it or it causes stress with your partner. Also important for a diagnosis of HSDD is that your lack of desire isn’t due to side effects from a medication or a medical condition. HSDD can be general (overall lack of sexual desire) or situational (you still have desire but not for your partner), and it can be acquired (after having normal levels of desire) or life-long (you’ve always had no/low sexual desire).
It’s important to know that if you feel like your low desire is a problem, you’re not alone—low sexual desire is the most commonly reported female sexual complaint. One reputable survey found that 33 percent of women lacked interest in sex for at least a few months in the previous year, and one in 5 women may have true HSDD. So if this lack of feelings causes you serious distress, you may want to reach out to your gyno for help. Non-medical treatments seem to work the best—talking openly with your partner, trying to stay healthy overall (cut down on alcohol and cigarettes and stress as much as possible), and talking with a counselor or therapist specializing in sexual and relationship problems.
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.