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What can cause orgasm problems in women?

Causes of orgasm problems in women can be physical or psychological.

Common causes of orgasm problems in women include:

  • not being stimulated sufficiently
  • worrying about sexual performance
  • mood disorders, such as depression
  • problems with physical health, such as a long-term pain condition like arthritis
  • a previous traumatic sexual experience
  • problems in the relationship
  • hormonal changes or problems, such as the menopause
  • taking some types of medicine, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) type of antidepressants
  • having previous gynaecological surgery, such as a hysterectomy
  • some health conditions, such as heart disease or multiple sclerosis

When can orgasm problems start?

Orgasm problems can be:

  • primary: a woman has never had an orgasm
  • secondary: she has had orgasms in the past, but cannot have one now

Also some women find they can orgasm when masturbating but not when they are with their partner. This could be due to problems with the relationship or not being stimulated sufficiently.

Some women do not need an orgasm to enjoy sex. However, for other women and their partners, being unable to have an orgasm can be a problem.

Sexual problems in women are common, especially in older women. Around one-third of young and middle-aged women are affected by sexual problems. While it is estimated that around 1 in 2 older women are affected by sexual problems.

Where to get help if you have orgasm problems

If you're unable to have an orgasm see a GP. They can check for any physical reasons that may be causing the problem, which may well be treatable.

For example, if problems with your pelvis may be a factor, then doing regular pelvic floor exercises designed to strengthen muscles around your bladder, vagina and back passage, may help.

Read more about pelvic floor exercises.

If the cause is psychological, it may help to see a sex therapist or doctor. A GP can refer you, or you can see one privately. Look for a therapist who is a member of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT), or a doctor from the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine.

There's more information about orgasms and other sexual problems on our page on female sexual problems.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 20 November 2019
Next review due: 20 November 2022