Why should I seek help?
Is it my fault?
What anatomy is involved?
What is healthy sexual function?
How do I know when to seek help?
Where do I go for help?
What can I expect when seeking help?
How do I seek help?
What self-help options do I have?
Why should I read this guide?
As I’ve been studying sex therapy and women’s sexuality before and during graduate school, I’ve noticed that there is a lack of support for women experiencing sexual dysfunctions. Sexuality is an important part of most women’s lives, through both partnered sex and solo sex. Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) can have a massive and widespread impact, negatively affecting women’s mental health, physical health, general wellbeing, self-esteem, sexual self-esteem, quality of life, and relationships. FSD can also have further impacts on a woman’s sexual function, decreasing sexual desire, the ability to get aroused, and sexual satisfaction. FSD can also negatively affect the emotions and mental health of women’s sexual partners and even the partners’ sexual function. Without knowledge of FSD and resources available for it, women run the risk of not receiving the help they need and thus experiencing some or even all of these negative impacts.
Unfortunately, many women experience sexual function problems and sexual dysfunctions. 55% of non-European Western women (including Canada and the USA) experience at least one sexual function problem. If we look strictly at sexual dysfunctions, 28% of Canadian women experience at least one. That’s more than one in four women! How many Canadian women experience each sexual dysfunction? Periodically or frequently, 11% experience low sexual desire, 12% experience lubrication difficulties, 10% experience an inability to reach orgasm, 7% experience pain during sex, and 8% experience unpleasurable sex. It is likely that Albertan women experience these problems at similar rates. There are also other sexual dysfunctions that have only been recognized recently, and so we have limited information on them. It is estimated that approximately 1% to 4% of North Americans experience persistent genital arousal disorder/genito-pelvic dysesthesia (PGAD/GPD) unwanted and persistent abnormal genital sensations). There does not appear to be any information on how many people experience lasting sexual dysfunctions (e.g., low desire, genital numbness) after stopping drugs (e.g., antidepressants, acne drugs). To make matters worse, there are many barriers preventing women from seeking help for their sexual function problems, and when women do seek help, negative experiences are common.
To adequately support women in navigating the healthcare system and other resources available, women need accurate information about female sexual function and dysfunction, but they also need direction about where and how to seek help. This information will also help women to prepare for and prevent negative help-seeking experiences and to identify sexual problems as soon as they arise. Due to the wide range of sexual health needs that exist among women, this web-based guide is only designed to support women with FSD, though some of the information may still be helpful for women with other related conditions, such as endometriosis, overactive bladder, and sexually transmitted infections. This web-based guide will help educate women about sexual function and the resources available to them, enabling women to know why, when, where, and how to seek help effectively and efficiently.