Photo by Mikhail Nilov
Sexual dysfunction is a common problem that can affect both men and women. It can manifest in various ways, including low libido, difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, premature ejaculation, or difficulty achieving orgasm.
Sexual dysfunction can be caused by many factors, including medical conditions, lifestyle factors, and psychological issues. Whatever the cause, there are several approaches that can be used to help address it.
Conditions that cause sexual dysfunction
Several medical conditions can lead to sexual dysfunction, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological conditions, hormonal imbalances, and chronic illnesses. In men, erectile dysfunction (ED) is commonly associated with these conditions.
For example, diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves that control erections, making it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. Similarly, cardiovascular disease can narrow blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the penis and making it challenging to achieve an erection.
In women, hormonal imbalances caused by conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can lead to sexual dysfunction. PCOS can lead to high levels of androgens (male hormones) in women, leading to symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, acne, and reduced libido. Hormonal imbalances caused by a recent pregnancy can also result in sexual dysfunction, which is why it’s important to mention dysfunction to your OB/GYN at the six-week and two-month visit.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug use can lead to sexual dysfunction. For example, smoking can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to achieve an erection.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also reduce libido and make it challenging to achieve orgasm. Similarly, drug use — particularly opioids — can lead to reduced sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression can also lead to sexual dysfunction. Stress and anxiety — especially those caused by having a new baby in the house — can affect sexual desire and make it challenging to achieve or maintain an erection.
Depression can reduce libido, affect sexual performance, and make it difficult to achieve orgasm. Postpartum depression, in particular, can result in significantly low libido, therefore resulting in sexual dysfunction. If low libido and other symptoms persist after six weeks, it’s important to discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Natural approaches to managing sexual dysfunction
Surgery or medical intervention doesn’t need to be the first solution to sexual dysfunction. There are several natural approaches that can help manage it:
Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly can help manage sexual dysfunction. Exercise can improve blood flow, reduce stress, and improve mood, all of which can help manage sexual dysfunction.
It may be hard with a new baby in the house, but even 10-15 minutes of movement can help reduce symptoms of depression. Both parents should find time to dedicate to movement, even if it means just taking the baby on a quick walk.
Several nutritional supplements can help manage sexual dysfunction. For example, L-arginine is an amino acid that helps increase blood flow to the penis, making it easier to achieve and maintain an erection.
Yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation can help manage stress and anxiety, as well as help with blood flow — all of which are essential for healthy sexual function. Certain yoga postures, such as the Cobra pose, the Bridge pose, and the Downward-Facing Dog pose, can improve blood flow to the pelvic area.
Yoga can also improve flexibility and muscle tone, like strengthening the pelvic muscles, which helps with sexual function. Boat pose, Chair pose, and Warrior III can help with strengthening the pelvic floor.
There are also a lot of free (or low-cost) “Baby and Me” classes for both moms and dads that help specifically with overall well-being. These classes are specifically designed to educate parents on yoga postures to stimulate well-being while also re-familiarizing themselves with their body again to provide confidence that they can maintain the life they had before their baby with their baby.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves inserting thin needles — typically no wider than the width of a single strain of hair — into specific points on the body. Like yoga and meditation, acupuncture can help manage stress and anxiety, improve blood flow, and reduce pain, all of which can improve sexual function.
Acupuncture can also help with balancing hormones by promoting the release of endorphins. Pain during sexual activity can be a barrier to sexual function. Acupuncture can help reduce pain by stimulating the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins.
Therapy can help manage psychological factors that contribute to sexual dysfunction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to sexual dysfunction, meaning it can help manage anxiety, depression, and other psychological factors that contribute to sexual dysfunction.
Sexual dysfunction is a common condition that can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life. Fortunately, there are many natural approaches that can help manage sexual dysfunction without resorting to surgery.
Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation can be beneficial for improving sexual function. Additionally, alternative therapies such as acupuncture can help improve blood flow, reduce stress and anxiety, stimulate nerve function, balance hormones, and reduce pain. These approaches can be effective for many individuals and may offer a safe and non-invasive alternative to surgical interventions.
If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and explore your treatment options, especially if you recently had a baby. With the right approach, many individuals can overcome sexual dysfunction and enjoy a healthy and fulfilling sex life.
(Editor Note: If you would like to learn more about therapy sessions and what to expect, check out this resource from Everyday Health - "What to Talk About in Therapy.")
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James J. Elist, Inventor of the Penuma aesthetic penile implant, has spearheaded the outstanding service that Penuma has offered since 2004. Dr. James J. Elist has been in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, since 1982, where he specializes in impotency, male sexual dysfunction, and enlargement procedures and is highly regarded as one of the top urologists in the area. He offers the Penuma procedure in his Beverly Hills clinic. Penuma is offered by a network of surgeons across the US.