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7 reasons why women might not be able to orgasm

Social pressures can play a part 

Olivia Petter
Friday 28 January 2022 10:46
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[This article was originally published in 2020.]

For hundreds of years the male orgasm has been researched and studied, but it was only in 1992 that the US National Institutes of Health set up a programme to research vaginal health.

As such the female orgasm remains shrouded in mystery and is often dismissed in societal discussions around sex and intimacy.

The NHS defines an orgasm as a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity.

As a result of this discrepancy in public conversation, women are often left in the dark with regards to the details of the their anatomy, meaning that for some, sex isn’t always as pleasurable as it should be.

And those who struggle to orgasm might think there’s something wrong with them, when in fact the issue could be much easier to resolve than they might think.

Orgasm problems can be divided into two types: primary – when a woman has never had an orgasm – and secondary – when a woman has had an orgasm in the past, but can’t now. The general term applied to those who have difficulty reaching orgasm is anorgasmia.

The Independent spoke to a gynaecologist and a psychosexual therapist to uncover the seven reasons why women may not reach orgasm – and how to combat them.

1. Alcohol intake

Too much alcohol can impact the blood flow to your clitoris, which is, for most women, the part of the vulva that requires stimulation in order to reach orgasm, explains Dr Shree Datta, a gynaecologist for Intima.

“Smoking can have an impact, too,” she adds.

“So if you find yourself struggling to orgasm, think about how much you are drinking or smoking in relation to the severity of your symptoms.”

2. Communication issues

Being able to tell your partner what you want and how you like it is integral to good sex and reaching orgasm, notes Kate Moyle, psychosexual therapist for Lelo.

“Your partner is not a mind reader, and if you aren’t able to tell them, then they won’t necessarily know,” she explains.

“Being positive, non-critical, and encouraging is the best way to approach it. Not ‘you aren’t doing that right’, more ‘I really enjoyed it when you X, could we try that again?’ or be direct and clear rather than ambiguous, so offering specific instructions that are easy for them to follow, or show them what would feel good by guiding their hands on your body.”

3. Lack of body confidence

Not feeling comfortable in your own skin can have an adverse effect on your sex life, says Moyle.

“This can inhibit our ability to be in the moment,” she explains.

“This is because negative thoughts prevent us from letting go and allowing the physical sensations to be the focus.”

You can read more about how to feel more body confident here.

4. Medical conditions

There are a number of medical conditions that can make it difficult or impossible for women to orgasm.

For example, multiple sclerosis can affect your ability to climax, notes Dr Datta.

“Make sure you seek treatment early to combat these conditions,” she adds.

Additionally, certain medications for pre-existing conditions could inhibit a woman’s ability to orgasm.

“Antidepressants and antihistamines can depress orgasms,” says Dr Datta, ”so make sure you regularly review the type and dose of medication you are taking with your doctor.”

5. Sexual stimulation

A simple explanation for a woman’s difficulty to orgasm could be the way they are being stimulated during sex.

This is one of the more common reasons that women don’t orgasm, says Moyle.

“The best way to work out what feels best for you, because although anatomy is similar, all bodies are different as are our preferences is self-exploration.

“This shouldn’t just be on your genitals, but all over your body to build pleasure and sensations.”

Additionally, it’s worth considering that most women require clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and don’t climax from penetration alone, notes Dr Datta.

“With that in mind, sexual foreplay is important. Additionally, think about different positions and guided masturbation which may increase arousal.”

6. Social pressures

Social pressures such as stress, financial and work hardships, may affect your ability to climax during sex, explains Dr Datta.

“This can also include relationship problems, particularly if there is mistrust or conflicts that have not been addressed,” she adds.

In these instances, couples counselling, as well as sex therapy, could be helpful, Dr Datta suggests.

7. Mental wellbeing

Your mental wellbeing can also contribute to your ability to climax, says Dr Datta.

“For example, if you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may have difficulty reaching an orgasm.”

If you think this might be the case, you’re advised to seek help from a gynaecologist who will be able to prescribe cognitive behaviour therapy and counselling where appropriate.

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