Couples who’ve been together for a while now know that there are days when getting intimate is the furthest thing from your mind. It’s perfectly normal as it’s part and parcel of life. Fatigue and the stresses of our day-to-day tasks can affect our sex drive, but it’s nothing some R&R can’t solve.
That said, you’ll need to sound the alarm if either one — or both — of you begin to have off days constantly. You may be suffering from sexual dysfunction, and if you’re trying to conceive, it’s a problem you’ll need to tackle immediately.
Find out more about the four major types of sexual dysfunction, their common causes, and how to treat them below.
What Is Sexual Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is any problem that interferes with or prevents you from experiencing satisfaction via sexual activity.
Note that sexual activity isn’t restricted to the physical act of sex; it also includes foreplay, masturbation, and other kinds of intimacy. Sexual dysfunction can also occur in varying degrees. It isn’t just a simple matter of whether you have this problem.
Moreover, sexual dysfunction affects both men and women of all ages. No one is immune to it, but it’s crucial to determine the type of sexual dysfunction you’re suffering from — more on that below. This helps you nip the problem and get your family planning back on track.
P.S. Contrary to popular misconception, asexuality is not a form of sexual dysfunction or a mental disorder. It’s not caused by trauma, genetics, or a loss of libido. Instead, asexuality is a form of sexual orientation.
What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?
Before we go into the four distinct categories of sexual dysfunction, let’s look at the two common underlying causes. (If you need help identifying your root cause, consult a gynecologist or urologist for professional advice.)
1. Psychological Issues
Lifestyle factors such as chronically high stress levels and marital strife are common psychological issues that incite sexual dysfunction. On a milder note, some couples may find their sex life too routine, leading to a lack of arousal and/or desire characteristic of psychosexual dysfunctions.
Mental health problems like depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are also to blame. Experience with sexual abuse experience can also bring on any of the four sexual dysfunctions, particularly psychosexuality disorders.
2. Physical Problems
Physical injuries to your reproductive parts can lead to sexual dysfunction, for example, an accidental kick to the scrotum during football.
Besides that, some medications and treatments physiologically interfere with your body’s sexual response and libido. Certain antidepressants, antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and diuretics have listed erectile dysfunction as their side effect.
Last but not least, a 2011 study warned that alcoholism and drug abuse can cause sexual dysfunction, too.
What Types of Sexual Dysfunction Are There?
Because the definition of sexual dysfunction is so broad, it helps to break up the disorders into four main types:
1. Arousal Disorders
Arousal disorders refer to the difficulty or inability to become physically aroused during sexual activity, a common form of psychosexuality disorder.
It’s a lack of bodily response to sexual stimulation, even though you might feel aroused. If you have this condition, you’ll likely experience reduced to no sexual interest.
For people assigned male at birth, arousal disorders typically manifest as a weak erection or none — aka erectile dysfunction (ED).
A 2019 study stated that about “3-76.5%” of the general public suffers from ED. If you’d like to learn more about managing this common but embarrassing condition, check out our detailed guide on erectile dysfunction.
For individuals with ovaries, arousal disorders can be a little more complicated as the psychosexual dysfunction may manifest differently.
According to the MSD Manuals, the fairer sex “do not respond subjectively or physically to sexual stimulation.” That means engaging in foreplay or watching an erotic video with your partner won’t lead to Sexy Times. For female-identified individuals, reduced vaginal lubrication and no clitoral swelling usually accompany arousal disorders.
2. Desire Disorders
Although desire disorders appear similar to arousal disorders on the spectrum of psychosexuality disorders, one key difference sets the two apart: Desire.
To understand the difference, we first need to look at the following definitions:
- Arousal: This refers to your bodily reactions towards sexual stimulation.
- Desire: You can think of it as your sex drive.
Unlike arousal disorders which are characterized by a lack of sexual response but may have a healthy libido, individuals with desire disorders have a lack of sexual appetite.
If you have a desire disorder, finding the cause for it is no mean feat. But it’s well worth the time and effort that you spend doing so, especially if you want to get pregnant.
3. Orgasm Disorders
As the name suggests, orgasm disorders mean that you are unable to orgasm, have difficulty reaching your sexual peak, or even experience pain during your climax.
In beings with female anatomy, this can show up as “a persistent or recurrent delay in, or absence of, orgasm” following sexual stimulation, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you’re experiencing this, take comfort that you’re not alone, as orgasm disorders impact roughly 11-14% of womenfolk at large.
Difficulty reaching orgasm isn’t only restricted to the fairer sex — men are, by no means, immune to it. One study estimated that roughly 30-85% of the general male population suffers from premature ejaculation (read: you come too quickly).
4. Pain Disorders
This sexual dysfunction category refers to experiencing pain while having sex or performing sexual activities.
Common examples include vaginismus and dyspareunia (pain before, during, or after sex) for folks who menstruate and ejaculatory pain (a hallmark of chronic pelvic pain syndrome) in male-aligned individuals.
Furthermore, sexual pain disorders might indicate additional health issues, which we will cover below.
What Are the Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction?
The symptoms of sexual dysfunction vary according to anatomy.
Those who are biologically male are often unable to maintain or have an erection. Meanwhile, women-identified individuals may experience vaginal dryness or involuntary muscle spasms in their nether regions. Anything you feel interferes with your desire or enjoyment of sex also counts as a symptom of sexual dysfunction.
Couples trying to get pregnant need to inform each other immediately if they encounter any obstacles to sexual enjoyment, whether physical, mental, or emotional.
This is especially important if they plan to have sex regularly to make the most of a woman’s fertile period. Neither party should brush it off if they’re experiencing a problem while having sex.
How Do You Treat Sexual Dysfunction?
Firstly, it’s essential to recognize that you’re suffering from sexual dysfunction and need treatment. There’s no need to be embarrassed about it; consulting your primary doctor and gynecologist should be your initial step. Depending on your situation, they may refer you to relevant health professionals such as a couple’s counselor or a sex therapist.
To illustrate, if you and your partner suffer from psychosexual dysfunction due to stress or marital problems, it’s time to talk to each other or with a licensed healthcare professional. This may mean going for couples counseling so you can air out your relationship issues and get back on track.
Or you may have a sexual problem that requires the expertise of a sex therapist. These therapists are certified healthcare personnel that address a wide range of sexual dysfunctions. You may or may not be recommended to attend the session with your partner.
From there, the treatment for sexual dysfunction depends on what’s causing it. As everyone’s circumstances are unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
What Can You Do To Prevent Sexual Dysfunction?
This might sound bleak but sexual dysfunction can be difficult to prevent, especially if it’s the side effect of medication or treatments that alleviate more pressing health issues. Ditto for injuries to one’s sexual organs or nerve damage due to accidents or illnesses.
With that said, all isn’t lost, as there are things you can do to keep sexual dysfunction at bay.
If you and your S.O. feel lovemaking has become too dull, it’s time to spice things up. Take the time to discuss what would make sex enjoyable for both of you — for example, trying out a new sex position or a new toy. It’s much-needed if you plan to regularly have sex to get pregnant.
There are also more “tangible” treatments, such as medication and devices. For example, drugs like Viagra (for erectile dysfunction) and ADDYI (targets low sexual desire disorder) help aid sexual dysfunction in biologically male and female folks, respectively.
As always, it’s best to consult your doctor before adding these treatments to your routine.
Can I Still Get Pregnant With Sexual Dysfunction?
The good news is, yes, it’s still possible to get pregnant with sexual dysfunction. You just have to be a little creative.
Besides seeking therapy and taking medications, there are other alternative forms of help to boost your chances of pregnancy. For instance, some of our customers with pain disorders still managed to conceive with the use of our home fertility tools.
J, a preschool teacher in her mid-30s, struggled with mild vaginismus when TTC for 6-12 months. But when she used the twoplus Applicator, a self-insemination syringe that works with ejaculated or donated sperm, she got pregnant on her first try.
Nip Sexual Dysfunction in the Bud
Sex is embarrassing to talk about, which is especially true in more conservative societies. Sexual health issues like sexual dysfunction compound this problem.
However, sexual dysfunction needs to be nipped in the bud by couples trying to conceive. All it takes to start healing is to begin talking about it.
Recognizing that you have a problem takes work. Once you step out of your comfort zone, treating it becomes much more manageable.
Because it takes two to get pregnant, begin your healing journey with an open and honest conversation with your partner. From there, reach out to a licensed healthcare professional you trust and are comfortable with. Seeking well-informed advice will make tackling sexual dysfunction all the easier.