Not Seeing 'Fireworks' in the Bedroom?

By opening up any magazine, flicking on the television to a steamy scene, or even listening to an entertainment news station, it may seem like everyone is experiencing earth-shattering, life-altering intimate moments in their love lives.

Women who don’t often have this typical response are left wondering if there is something wrong with them.

Despite our societal conditioning of the ‘typical’ female orgasmic response, not all women experience that movie-like climax, shares Gynecologist Suzanne Hall.   

 “If you experience fireworks, that’s great!” Dr. Hall explained, “But not all women experience fireworks with climax (orgasm). In fact, less than a third of women even consistently experience orgasm with sex.  Like other sensory responses in our body, the frequency and quality of our individual sexual response vary amongst women (and often vary amongst experiences). Just like the ‘savor’ of chocolate cake, the ‘scent’ of spicy perfume, the picturesque  ‘vision’ of a floral garden bring different sensations to different women, so does our experience of sex.  Women vary in type, intensity and duration of orgasm, as well as in our level of satisfaction with the experience.”

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 Dr. Hall stresses there is no right answer for your response to sexual stimulation. A less than typical response is only a problem if you see it as one, and desire more from your experience.

Problems or dissatisfaction with our sexual experience may be due to one or more of these factors, and should be evaluated from the perspective of the individual, the relationship, and the related psychological and social factors.  In the office, when patients express difficulties with libido or sexual response, Dr. Hall often starts by asking, “How is your relationship?” or, “Tell me about your stressors.” Women with concerns or doubts about their relationship often report more problems with orgasm.  Women tend to have more sexually satisfying experiences in trusting relationships, where they feel emotionally safe.

Dr. Hall shared that she often finds herself reminding young mothers of the negative effects of fatigue and stress on overall interest in/response to sex. (Remember those times when you’ve been so exhausted, you’d much rather go to sleep, than have sex!)  To make the point, she adds, “If you had an expense-paid vacation with your husband, and your kids were in safe hands, would you be looking forward to sex with your husband during that trip?”  Dr. Hall poses this question to parents so they can see the negative effects of life’s everyday stressors on their sexual relationship. This lessens their concern for a ‘hormonal’ or ‘medical cause’ for their sexual disinterest or dissatisfaction.

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Though medical conditions are typically a less likely cause for female sexual dysfunction than psychosocial factors, some of the medical causes are:

  • Substance induced conditions: central nervous system depressants, like alcohol intoxication, may inhibit orgasmic response.

  • Medications/SSRIs antidepressants: the use the SSRI antidepressants are commonly associated with delayed orgasmic response in both men and women. 

  • Mood disorders: major mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may be associated with a loss of interest in sex, leading to orgasmic dysfunction. 

  • Pelvic surgery/birth: a short-term decline in orgasmic satisfaction may occur after pelvic surgery or childbirth. Though long-term functioning should not be affected after routine pelvic surgery or childbirth.

If you have concerns about your sexual responsiveness, make time to visit/discuss your concerns with your health care provider.

 Dr. Hall explains that you should be the judge of your own sexual responsiveness and sexual satisfaction.  She asks women to take a look at potential psychological factors or aspects of social upbringing that may affect sexual response.  If you are still unsure of how “normal” your sexual response is, try examining your relationship, as well as your stressors Finally, Dr. Hall urges you be kind with yourself, and give yourself permission to explore and to grow.

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~Suzanne Hall, MD is the founder of Gyno Groupie.

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