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What is Female Sexual Health?

Sexual health means a state of physical and mental wellbeing that enables a woman to fully participate and enjoy the sexual activity. Sex is a pleasurable activity that is hormone influenced, and is a way of procreation too. A wide range of physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors influence a woman's sexual health.

Sex requires co-ordination between the brain, the pituitary gland that produces sex hormones , sex organs or reproductive glands, and the rest of the body. If any of the component is dysfunctional, then, desire for sex may fade (decrease in libido), or the ability to have sex may be compromised resulting in sexual dysfunction. Apart from these physiological processes, a woman's experiences, expectations, mental health, and emotional health also play a role in her sexuality.

For many women, sexual health means being free from Sexually Transmitted Diseases(STD). These include gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia, human papillomavirus, and HIV/AIDS. Using a condom is the best way to protect against getting a sexually transmitted infection( STI).

Many believe that body's physical desire for sex motivates sexual activity, which triggers sexual arousal and then orgasm. Although this might be true for most men, it's not necessarily true for most women. Different factors help many women feel aroused and desire sex, and different factors dampen desire.

What are female sexual health needs?

Sexual gratification differs for everyone. Many factors influence sexual response,

including how you feel about your partner,

how you feel about yourself, your mental and physical health, and your religious and cultural beliefs etc.

A woman’s sexual appetite is usually high when she thinks about constantly being together. According to a psychological survey , the thought of his reaction to her is what most women think of. eg. “I wonder if he thinks I’m attractive enough?” These are the common thoughts that go across the minds of most women. The mere thought of being desired or wanted by the man keeps her engaged in him and peaks her excitement.

Both men and women’s bodies are very different hormonally. This maybe the reason why women don’t crave sex as much as men do.Testosterone hormone does cause physiological desire in both genders, but to differing degrees; and proportionately, the male hormonal drive is a loud scream, and hers is a whisper. Women have expectations of lots of continuing romance that assures her of her sexual desirability.

Most women do love sex, but desire can easily be derailed by tiredness, resentment, or the physiological problems of pain, menses or menopause.The responsibility and distractions of the household chores like laundry, children, and work, or the inhibiting voices inside her head that tell her not to, because of her history or religion.

Women often come to bed willing to have a good experience, but not really wanting or craving sex until aroused. However sometimes getting to the peak of arousal may take up 45 minutes. Consider more cuddling, a sensual massage, self-stimulation, oral sex or using a vibrator depending on what interests you.

Experiencing regular orgasms is not as easy for women as it is for men, but it is necessary for continued desire. So, while men love variety, women may prefer a tried and tested position or routine, because there is more guarantee of her pleasure, which allows her to relax in the moment.

Often, relationships ups and downs cause women to withdraw desire and protect their heart in a way that men don’t or can’t, given their innate biological drive. Her need to feel emotionally safe before the sexual moment cannot be overstated. Romance and seduction are ways that both men and women can co-create a context for sex that helps her separate from the worries of her daily routine or her mental checklist of things to do, and brings her to a place of vulnerability where she is but relaxed.

Sex, talking, hanging out, working together, managing a home and family as a team, feeling appreciated, celebrating holidays, giving and receiving gifts, and affection may all comprise of the idea of love for a woman. Sex is only a part and not the defining factor. Making love may flow from the warmth she feels in the relationship, but it’s not necessarily the source of the heat.

What should you discuss with your partner to address your sexual needs?

If you have concerns about your sex life, or you just want to find ways to enhance it, the first step is talking with your partner.

It might not be easy for you to talk about your sexual desires, but your partner can't read your mind.

Sharing your thoughts and expectations about your sexual experiences can bring you closer and help you achieve greater sexual enjoyment and better understanding. Sex is more than a physical act. It's also an opportunity for emotional bonding, which builds closeness in a relationship. Try to take the pressure off of each other when it comes to having sexual intimacy.

Understand that Sexual needs may vary from person to person. Many factors can affect your sexual appetite, including stress, illness , aging ,family, career and social commitments. Whatever the cause, differences in sexual desire between partners can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, rejection and resentment.

How to talk to your partner about your sexual needs?

Admit your discomfort.

If you feel anxious, say so. Opening up about your concerns might help you start the conversation. Tell your partner if you feel shy about discussing what you want, and ask for reassurance that your partner is open to the conversation. What gives you individual and mutual enjoyment? Be open to hearing your partner's requests and coming up with compromises if one of you is uncomfortable with the other's requests.

Your intimacy needs.

Intimacy is more than just sexual needs. Intimacy also includes emotional, spiritual, physical and recreational needs. If your emotional intimacy needs aren't being met, you might be less interested in sex. Think about what your partner could do to enhance your emotional intimacy, and talk about it openly and honestly. In any long-term relationship, couples might experience differing levels of sexual desire. Explore options that will satisfy both of you.

Talk talk talk.

Your conversations about sex will get easier the more you talk. Talking might help you increase your confidence and comfort level. Talk about challenges between you and your partner that might be interfering with sex, and ways that you can address them. Do you and your partner have the same definition of romance? Is it missing? How can you reignite it? How can romance set the stage for sexual intimacy? Discuss all these things.

Set a time limit.

Are you setting aside enough time for sexual intimacy? If not, what can you do to change things? How can you make sexual intimacy a priority? Think about how you and your partner can support each other to help create time and energy for sex.

By devoting 15-minute conversations to the topic, you might find it easier to stay within your emotional comfort zones. Talk about what you like, what you don't like and what you'd like to try.

Grab a book or movie.

Invite your partner to read a book about women's sexual health, or recommend chapters or sections that address your questions and concerns. You might also use a movie scene as a starting point for a discussion.

Address other Physical and Psychological problems.

Talk about how physical changes, like weight gain, cosmetic changes after surgery or hormonal changes or any other illnesses , are affecting your sex life. Also address emotional factors that might be interfering with your enjoyment of sex, such as being stressed or depressed.

When should you talk to a doctor?

If your difficulty persists, consider turning to a doctor or sex therapist for help. If you take medications that might affect your sex drive , review your medications with your doctor. He/She may suggest an alternative.

If any physical signs or symptoms such as vaginal dryness , irritation etc is interfering with your sexual enjoyment, ask about treatment options. Eg. a lubricant gel or other medication can help with vaginal dryness associated with hormonal changes or other factors.

Human sexuality is interlinked to emotions, thoughts and beliefs, so the ability to experience pleasure and orgasm does vary significantly.

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