There are a number of factors that may inhibit a woman’s sexual response. Sometimes this is due to physical factors, other times a woman’s feelings or past experiences may affect her sexual responses.

A woman’s current or past experiences with sexual assault or domestic violence can make it more difficult to enjoy sexual relationships. A woman’s sexual responses may be inhibited, if she doesn’t trust her partner or if she and her partner can’t communicate effectively. Even something as simple as an unresolved quarrel can inhibit a woman’s sexual responses. Few women experience orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Rubbing or other less direct stimulation of the clitoris, is usually the easiest way for a woman to have an orgasm. Sometimes a woman may find her clitoris is very sensitive and direct stimulation is uncomfortable. If a woman rarely or never experiences orgasm, she may wish to explore her own responses through masturbation. She can then use this information to talk to her partner about how to make their sexual experiences more enjoyable.

There can also be physical barriers to sexual response:

Low hormone levels

Hormones are chemical messengers that carry instructions throughout the body. The level of one hormone often affects the level of another. Both estrogen and testosterone appear to be important to a woman’s interest in sex and capacity to reach orgasm. Low estrogen levels may decrease how much lubricant a woman produces when she is aroused, and cause the tissues of the vagina to become thinner. Hormone levels may change:

  • around the time of menopause
  • if a woman has her ovaries removed or has other gynaecological surgery
  • when a woman takes birth control pills

Treatment with artificial supplements of these hormones can help to alleviate these problems. Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy.

Lack of Natural Lubrication

Lubrication makes the genital area slippery so it is easier to slide fingers, a man’s penis or sex toys into the vagina or around the genital area. If a woman produces only a little lubricant, it may make sex uncomfortable. For some women this is always a concern; others may begin to experience this problem around the time of menopause. Prolonging the time a woman is excited before genital contact may help. You can buy lubricants that substitute for a woman’s natural lubrication. For more on lubricants check out our frequently asked questions.

Vaginal Muscle Strength

Orgasm is a repeated muscle spasm. These muscles may be stretched during the delivery of a child, they may weaken with age or they may never be very strong. Anything that increases muscle strength makes orgasm easier and more intense. Kegel exercises may be used to strengthen these muscles.

Reduced blood flow to the genital area

Many of the signs of sexual arousal, including orgasm, are dependent on blood flow to the clitoris and genitals. Some medications that reduce blood pressure may inhibit a woman’s ability to orgasm, but this may also occur without drugs. A new device, which draws blood to the clitoris, has been approved in the United States. Research is also being done on the male impotence drug Viagra to see if it can safely improve blood flow for women.