Topics dealing with female sexual problems (even female sexuality) are usually shoved under the rug and no one likes to discuss it. However, just like males, females suffer from more problems than one when it comes to sex. Fear of losing virginity, pain during penetration, lack of desire, confusion regarding sex during periods and pregnancy are just some of the problems women have to deal with in their sexual lives. This mega guide addresses all these issues and more…
Pain during sex or dyspareunia is more common among women than men and it’s estimated it affects one of out every five woman at some point in their lives. Sadly, more often than not the issue gets swept under the rug and people don’t discuss the issue. Rachel Hercman, a psychotherapist specialising in sexuality, dating and relationships tells us more…
“In my work treating female sexual dysfunction, I often meet women who are suffering silently from pain before, during, or after sexual intercourse, clinically known as dyspareunia. For some, the pain has been there since their first intercourse and for others it only manifested later on. Dyspareunia is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a core physical or psychological condition. A woman suffering from dyspareunia may experience mild or severe pain in almost any area of the vagina or pelvic region.”
- Pain at entry
- Pain with any penetration (including a tampon)
- Sudden pain after intercourse
- Deep pain during thrusting
- Burning pain
- Aching pain
- Insufficient lubrication that may cause friction between the penis and the skin
- Muscles that may have tightened due to age, childbirth, disuse or other reasons
- Possible nerves positioned in such a way that the penis pushes against them, causing pain during intercourse
- A muscular or bone formation that has shifted, causing pain during sex or any other type of contact
- Psychological factors
Different types of dyspareunia
Since there are a number of different types of pain a woman may experience during sexual intercourse, it is important to see a medical practitioner who is able to help identify the source and location of the pain, something that may be difficult for the woman herself to do. Once a practitioner can determine the source of pain, one or more conditions can be specified. As defined by us here at the Medical Center for Female Sexuality:
- Vulvodynia and Vulvar Vestibulitus are conditions of dyspareunia where the outside of the vagina, known as the vulva, is irritated or in pain. The vulvar region includes the pad of mons pubis – the fatty tissue at the base of your abdomen, the labia, the clitoris and the vagina opening.
- Vaginismus is a condition where the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract, making penetration painful and sometimes impossible. In its mildest form, a woman can get a penis into the vagina for very short periods, but it’s unpleasant and painful. Or it can be so severe that she can’t touch herself near her vagina, can’t have a gynaecological exam and can’t insert a tampon because the pain is so severe and the fear is so great.
The goal of treating dyspareunia is to reduce the pain or discomfort. Treatment may include:
- Use of vaginal dilators
- Trying to increase lubrication through topical creams or gels
- Using hormone therapy
- Increasing the blood flow with Viagra, a vibrator or a suction/pump
- Trying different lubrications
- Stretching exercises
- Physical therapy to strengthen supporting muscles to alleviate pressure from other muscles
- Exploring psychological factors that may be contributing
Failure to reach orgasm
A woman’s orgasm is one of the biggest mysteries in the history of mankind. What works for one doesn’t work for the other. What works once for a woman may not work the second time around.
Myths related to orgasm
From ancient times, many things about female sexuality have been misunderstood and many a expert have tried to gauge a woman’s sexual response to try to demystify it. So, what exactly is the truth and what isn’t? Here are some myths:
Myth: Women can only reach orgasm through vaginal intercourse
Fact: If the sexologists are to be believed, only one in three women tends to achieve orgasm during vaginal intercourse. Others can only reach the Promised Land through either through oral stimulation or by hand or through clitoral stimulation. What we need to remember is an orgasm is reached at the peak of sexual pleasure and can be achieved in various different ways. It’s also important to remember that achieving an orgasm has nothing to do with a woman’s emotional maturity or mental health.
Myth: Inability to reach orgasm means that there’s something wrong with the woman or her partner.
Fact: Women who suffer from problems with reaching orgasm could attribute it mostly due to the lack of awareness or the foreplay intensity and duration they want. Rarely, it could also be due to underlying medical conditions. One needs to take this seriously and understand that most of the medical ailments are treatable. (Read more: Top 5 female orgasm myths busted)
Sex during periods
Menstruation (menses or periods as it is popularly known) is considered ‘dirty’ in our country. In most traditional households, the women aren’t allowed to go anywhere ‘near God’, pray or touch anything that is considered remotely holy. Sex during periods is unimaginable for most people. Here are some of the questions most often asked on the topic.
Does having sex during periods prevent pregnancy?
Well, logically, there are very rare chances of one getting pregnant because of sex during this time. Even though the unfertilized egg may still be present in the body, the uterus is in ‘disposal’ mode (the lining of the uterus is being shed) preventing fertilization and implantation. Hormones necessary for the pregnancy to progress also aren’t available.
In rare cases, when people have claimed to have gotten pregnant post sex during periods, the reason actually might be the bleeding they had was not a ‘period’ in the first place. It might have been due to ‘implantation bleeding’ that occurs when the fertilized egg ‘settles’ into the lining of the uterus.
So, there is no need to use a condom or other protection in such a situation?
This is a popular myth. Even though the chances of getting pregnant are extremely rare, the risk for transmission of STDs is actually higher. So, do use condoms or other appropriate barrier contraception.
How do I convince my woman to have sex during her periods?
Most women suffer from a lot of cramps, pain, are uncomfortable and dealing with mood swings during their periods. Sex may be the last thing on their mind. However, if you told her how women actually have better orgasms when they are menstruating, they’d perhaps be interested. If you’re wondering how – the ‘fullness’ and engorgement that women feel in the pelvis and their sexual organs makes them very sensitive to stimulation. Add to this the fact that sex during periods has also been shown to reduce menstrual pain and cramps, and they should be hankering for your loving!
Is it true that sex during periods puts and end to the period?
The uterine contractions during the orgasm coupled with progesterone present in the semen accelerate the bleeding. The period which would have usually lasted for 4-5 days may come to an abrupt end after a period of heavy flow right after the intercourse. So, be prepared! So, as you can see, there is no need for a ‘closed for maintenance’ attitude during the menstrual periods. Just go with the flow!
Sex during pregnancy
In order to answer common queries that come to most pregnant couples’ mind, we speak to Sonali Shivlani, an internationally certified pregnancy counsellor and Dr Zinal Unadkat, a leading paediatrician, on this topic.
Till what stage of pregnancy can a couple have sex?
Generally, the recommendation is abstinence in the first trimester and then again in the last four weeks of pregnancy. But I would ideally suggest first checking with the doctor as each pregnancy is different and a medical check is important to determine what is safe. A woman who has a recurring abortion history or premature delivery is advised against having sex during pregnancy.
What can go wrong if they indulge in intercourse during these stages?
In the first trimester, the placenta implants and all foetal organs are developed. Excessive jerks or jostling could pose a risk to the pregnancy. It can also lead to a miscarriage.
In the last one month, if sex is unprotected then it can lead to infection probabilities especially if the water bag breaks. There is also a risk of premature labour.
Can sex cause any harm to the baby?
The baby is safe within the amniotic fluid covered by membranes so there isn’t any risk to it but too much movement and jerk can cause pain to the mother.
Are there any precautions that couples need to keep in mind?
Avoid any weight on the abdomen and avoid excessive acrobats. Stick to traditional positions. You may want to use a lubricant as the woman might be experiencing vaginal dryness and itching due to hormonal changes.
Which are the safe sex positions couples can opt for?
Some safe sex positions are woman on top, doggy style and even man on top but with not much weight on the woman’s abdomen – if there is any discomfort during this, the couple should avoid it. Cuddling and foreplay can be just as satisfying – it is important to be emotionally connected to be able to welcome the newborn with love in this world.
Is not having intercourse throughout the nine months of pregnancy a better option?
Not really! There is no reason why a couple cannot satisfy their desires. At times, due to hormonal changes, women experience a peak in their libido during pregnancy. In some cases when a pregnancy crosses term, sex is advised to help soften the cervix as sperm has the ability to do so. Also, nipple stimulation can cause uterine contractions. Sex is considered a fun way to induce labour. However, it is advised to consult your doctor before you try this.
Body image issues
Today, it’s hard to feel beautiful, and for many women feeling beautiful and feeling sexy go hand-in-hand. The culture we live in makes it difficult for women to feel adequate physically, as everywhere you look—the movies, magazines, billboards- there are images of women that are unrealistic to attain. In many cases the images are photoshopped to make the woman’s body look even more ‘perfected’ than it does in reality, but the knowledge that it’s photoshopped doesn’t curtail its dramatic impact. Consequently, many women walk around with a negative body image and feel like they aren’t perfect enough to be beautiful and for many, this translates into insecurity in the bedroom.
What can I do to improve my body image?
If you find it hard to drop your conditions for considering yourself beautiful and sexy, try to pretend for a moment that you’ve already met those conditions and you are perfect exactly the way you are. Bask in that confidence and the permission to feel comfortable with your body just the way it is. Does it feel wrong? Unjustified? Arrogant?
See what comes up for you. For some women, doing this exercise allows them to identify messages about their body that they received from family members, relationship partners, or society in general. It can help clarify personal core beliefs about what is beautiful, sexy, and who decides. And most importantly, it is a powerful reminder that negative body beliefs can shift when you are willing to challenge your mind-set and the mirror.
Try this exercise: Stand in front of the mirror (or if you’re not comfortable with that, sit in a comfortable position). Pick a body part you don’t like and try to think for a few moments about positive things about that body part. For example; if you don’t like your butt, concentrate on thinking about positive things your butt does for you, such as providing a cushion to sit. Focus on that feeling of gratitude and remind yourself that you are more than just your body.
Developing a healthy body image is no easy feat, but if you can practice gentleness with yourself and surround yourself with positive messages, you will become more comfortable in your own skin.
Despite the fact that it’s considered biologically abnormal, the truth is that masturbation is a very common activity in both humans and animals. Sadly, many people who masturbate feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Many wrongly believe that masturbation is deviant, dangerous and sinful. It is not any of these things!
Sexologists advise masturbation as a learning step for women who have not yet learned to have orgasms. Solo masturbation gives the privacy, security and unlimited time in an unpressured space which allows a woman to learn about her very special individual sexual arousal and orgasm response pattern.
Myths about masturbation
Like male masturbation, there are lots of crazy myths about female masturbation as well. Some of the common ones are:
- Can cause blindness or colour blindness
- Can cause hair to grow on the palm of the hand
- You can run out of orgasms (i.e. using up sexual reserve)
- Can cause mental health problems and craziness
- Excessive masturbation can cause decreased sexual stamina
- Can cause fatigue and tiredness
Tips to masturbate
Some tips you can keep in mind:
Set the mood for the act – Take a long shower, use scented candles and play some soothing music in the background before you start masturbating. You might want to shut off your own phone to avoid distraction.
Think sexy thoughts – Once the mood is set, allow erotic thoughts to enter into your brain. Thinking about a movie star or some hot guy you like might help.
Stimulate your clitoris and other erogenous zones – Every woman reacts differently to different erogenous zones on her body. Try touching different areas and figure out what is it that works for you. Making noises is of course optional (depends on how much privacy you have).
Let common sense dictate your actions –
If you’ve ever watched porn you will find women in these movies tend to masturbate with any everyday phallic objects that take their fancy – vegetables, bananas, candles and other cylindrical items resembling a penis. This is extremely dangerous (something could break and remain in the vagina) but also unhygienic. They can also contain germs which could result in an infection.
So don’t worry about masturbating, just maintain proper hygiene and stop worrying about fake morality.
Lack of sexual desire in women
Low libido or low sexual desire is very common. Whether the root is psychological, physiological, or both, low libido can put stress on a relationship and can create frustration for both partners. Here are some of the factors responsible.
Hormonal: In some cases, a woman may be experiencing a hormonal imbalance that is affecting her libido. Though puberty and menopause are significant milestones that are marked by dramatic hormonal changes, women are constantly going through hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives. Testosterone, often associated with male libido, is not only present in women but is essential for female libido and its deficit can translate into lowered or minimal interest in sex.
Medical Conditions: Many diseases and medical conditions can affect libido. Examples of these include hypertension, obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, with its many adverse effects on health, can also lower libido.
Medications: While side effects vary from person to person, many medications, including some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety, have side effects that affect your libido. Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which essentially manipulate the hormone levels in your body, can also affect your libido. If you are on any medications and are experiencing low libido, talk to your doctor about your options.
Psychological Many psychological conditions can affect libido. Depression, for example, often has a feature called anhedonia, which is the inability to enjoy activities that used to be pleasurable, which can include sex. Drugs and alcohol, though they may enhance one’s mood, can flatten libido. Conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, or even anorexia can certainly contribute to a woman’s libido. In addition, religious and personal beliefs about sexuality may also play a role in how a woman experiences her libido.
Life Stressors: Sometimes life’s challenges can put sex at the bottom of someone’s list of things to do. Fatigue and being overwhelmed with responsibilities can make some women feel a very low libido, especially if they are caretakers for others and are always putting others’ needs first. If a relationship with a partner is going through hardship or there is building resentment, that too can contribute to libido.
Some common mistakes women make in the bed room
A lot of sexual problems aren’t physical, but psychological. These problems would solve themselves if both partners make a little effort and become aware of the mistakes they may be making.
Here are some common mistakes women make in the bedroom (and any other place one likes to have sex).
Sin #1: Assuming men are ready, and want sex all the time.
This may be true for a teenager with raging hormones, but not with someone who is in his mid-20s, the latter has too much to worry about and that tends to dampen his desire for sex.
Sin #2: Sex is done when he’s done
Not true, you can always turn the tables on him. What’s stopping you from telling him, ‘Hey, we’re not finished yet’? If his orgasm seriously has wiped him out (and in his defence, his body is flooded with ‘sleep’ hormones immediately after orgasm), explain to him that you need to have yours before he does.
Sin #3:Sex is more than than just sex to men
Men often have sex to feel wanted. It may be hard for women to accept that it’s a way for men to express affection, but it just might be the case. So, if he really wants to say ‘I love you’, he may suggest sex. If he feels emasculated, sex could make him manly again. If he’s feeling vulnerable after a health scare, sex is his way of proving to himself he doesn’t have to go through it alone. Sometimes when you reject sex, you’re not just rejecting sex but you’re effectively saying ‘I don’t like or want you’. Adopt a new philosophy: don’t say no, say when and always make it clear you’re saying no to sex, not a cuddle or cosy chat.
Sin #4: Sticking to the same boring routine
You wouldn’t expect your partner to eat the same lunch every day. Why then, do most of us become paranoid when our partner dares to suggest a change to their sexual menu? Wanting change is nothing to be threatened by. (Read: Top sex positions – woman on top)
Sin #5: Not giving enough instructions
If you don’t show or tell him how to touch you—when, where, how hard, how fast, in as much detail as possible—you might as well both give up there and then.