Seeking help for sexual function complaints: what gynecologists need to know about the female patient's experience

Fertil Steril. 2003 Mar;79(3):572-6. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(02)04695-2.


Objective: To further explore the patient experience of seeking help for a sexual function complaint.

Design: Survey administered on a Web-based instrument.

Setting: Healthy volunteers visiting an online Website.

Patient(s): The majority of participants were married (73%), Caucasian (88%), and premenopausal (67%). Most commonly reported sexual complaints included low desire (77%), low arousal (62%), and difficulty achieving orgasm (56%).

Intervention(s): None.

Main outcome measure(s): Patient experience survey on a women's sexual health website.

Result(s): Although 40% of the women reported that they did not seek help from a physician for sexual function complaints, 54% reported that they would like to. Although only a minority of the women internalized their experience with extremely negative emotions like shame, devaluation, or disgust, the experience was not a particularly emotionally positive one along the lines of relief, optimism, or confidence, and a great deal of frustration and anxiety about treatment was reported.

Conclusion(s): The extent to which health professionals currently receive exposure to training in human sexuality as well as the way in which female sexual complaints are handled in the medical setting remain ambiguous. The inflow of patients with sexual function complaints only will increase, and it is time for physicians to start to acknowledge women's sexuality with the same importance their patients do.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Gynecology* / education
  • Humans
  • Libido
  • Orgasm
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / therapy*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological
  • Sexuality
  • Vaginal Diseases