Dr. Kate’s Female Sexual Dysfunction Series: INTRO (Part 1 of 5)

photo by dcbprime

All this month Dr. Kate, an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City, is dedicating January on EMandLO.com to the topic female sexual dysfunction, since that’s what she seems to get the most inquiries about. Here’s her introduction, which will be followed by her post on desire problems later this afternoon. Then tune in every Thursday afternoon for the next three weeks for her follow-up installments on arousal and orgasm issues.

“I don’t want sex as much as I used to.”
“It takes me forever to get turned on.”
“I don’t even fantasize about sex anymore.”
“I don’t want sex as much as he does.”
“Why can’t I come every time?”

I hear concerns like these every day from patients. Discussion of men’s sexual problems—at least the ones that can be fixed with the little blue pill—seems to be everywhere. But from reading women’s magazines (“How to Have Even MORE Explosive Sex!!), you would think that all women in the U.S. are happy and satisfied with their sex lives.

As a gynecologist, I can tell you that they’re not.

It can be tricky, though, to figure out what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to how we feel about sex. This series of blog posts will dive into that exact question. There are three aspects to our sexual functioning, and a woman may have worries about one or all of them:

  1. Desire—doesn’t everything start here? Actually, not always. Desire is the craving for sexual sensations, and it may happen spontaneously, by looking at your partner, seeing another attractive person (insert fantasy-celeb-of-choice here) or even thinking about them. But sometimes desire comes in response to physical or mental stimulation—the desire comes after the touching starts.
  2. Arousal—we think of arousal in the body: your heart rate and temperature skyrocket, your breasts and genitals become more sensitive. You have the femme equivalent of an erection; your vagina engorges with blood and becomes longer and a bit wider in anticipation of sex. But arousal can also start—and stop—in the mind.
  3. Orgasm—what we’re hoping happens during sex, even if not every time. We get a lot out of sex besides climaxing—but if we’re not coming enough, it’s likely to dampen our enthusiasm. But what’s “enough”?

If you’ve ever wondered if your negative feelings about sex were normal, you can check out these helpful overviews from HealthyWomen.org and the Mayo Clinic. Then tune in later today for my first installment on desire, followed every Thursday afternoon for the next three weeks with my follow-up posts on arousal and orgasm difficulties.

— Dr. Kate

dr_kate_100Dr. 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.