What Can Cause Orgasm Difficulties in Women?

What Can Cause Orgasm Difficulties in Women?

Orgasm is part of the sexual response cycle for both men and women. It is the point during sexual response in which a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing reach their maximum rate, along with transient peak sensations of intense pleasure, creating an altered state of consciousness. Typically, orgasm is described as a sudden release of sexual tension accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions, especially those in the pelvic region and around the sexual organs. Women experience contractions in the uterus and vagina, and men have contractions in the muscles at the base of the penis, usually resulting in ejaculation.

Even though it is routinely described as part of the sexual response cycle, not every sexual experience includes orgasm, and difficulty reaching orgasm is a relatively common sexual problem among women. In fact, one study of 1,749 women in the United States revealed that 24% experienced an orgasmic dysfunction, making it the second most frequently reported sexual dysfunction for women. Fewer women experience orgasm from intercourse alone; women are more prone to experience orgasm through oral and manual stimulation or masturbation.

Below are some of the most common reasons why a woman may have trouble reaching orgasm.

Insufficient sexual stimulation. Sexual stimulation is key for having an orgasm, and women who are struggling to achieve orgasm may simply need more stimulation to do so. Increasing foreplay and including clitoral stimulation in sexual activities may help in this situation, especially because many women do not orgasm with vaginal penetration alone.

Psychological issues. A person’s mental health plays a big role in their sexual health. It may be difficult for a woman to reach orgasm if she is distracted, worried about her body or sexual performance, dealing with depression or anxiety, or feeling guilty about having sex, possibly due to cultural or religious beliefs. Past sexual abuse and trauma can also have a negative impact on a woman’s ability to orgasm. A trusted mental health professional or sex therapist may be able to help address psychological issues that are impairing a woman’s orgasmic function.

Relationship/communication issues. It may be more difficult for a woman to orgasm if she has unresolved conflicts or a lack of connection or trust with her partner. Additionally, being able to communicate sexual preferences to a partner is very important when it comes to sexual satisfaction.

Chronic conditions. Some long-term illnesses may make sex uncomfortable or even painful for women, contributing to issues with orgasm. Sexual pain conditions like vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, and vaginismus and chronic diseases like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease may all impede orgasm.

Medications. Several medications can have an impact on a person’s ability to orgasm such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, and blood pressure medications. Antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in particular, have been shown to impair orgasmic function.

Ageing. As a woman ages, her estrogen levels decrease, and she may experience changes in her sexuality like decreased lubrication and vaginal elasticity, among other things. Such changes may contribute to burning or pain during sexual intercourse, which is a condition known as vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA)/genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). Postmenopausal women may also report more difficulty reaching orgasm and orgasms that are less intense than they previously experienced. Fortunately, there are treatments available for VVA/GSM such as vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, and local hormonal products.

Not reaching orgasm is no cause for concern if a person is satisfied with their sexual experiences. However, if difficulty achieving orgasm is causing personal distress or relationship issues, it may be helpful to discuss the matter with a trusted health care provider to determine what could be causing the issue.


Mayo Clinic. (2020, March 28). Anorgasmia in Women. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anorgasmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20369422

Meston, C.M., Hull, E., Levin, R.J., & Sipski, M. (2004). Disorders of Orgasm in Women. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 1(1), 66-68. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2004.10110.x

National Health Service (NHS). (2019, November 20). What can cause orgasm problems in women? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-can-cause-orgasm-problems-in-women/

Other Popular Articles

What Is Jelqing, and Does It Actually Work?

The term “jelqing” refers to a set of penis stretching exercises that some believe can make the penis bigger. Although the practice has gained attention and popularity in blogs and internet forums in recent years, there is no scientific evidence that it is an effective way to permanently increase the size of one’s penis. In fact, in some cases, jelqing may actually cause damage to the penis, so it is a good idea to get all the facts before setting off to try it.

What Is Sensate Focus and How Does It Work?

Sensate focus is a technique used to improve intimacy and communication between partners around sex, reduce sexual performance anxiety, and shift away from ingrained, goal-oriented sexual patterns that may not be serving a couple.

What Is the Average Penis Size?

If you have ever wondered how your penis compares to others in terms of size, you are not alone. Many men are curious to know how their penises stack up compared to the average. Unfortunately, general curiosity can sometimes give way to full-on obsession and anxiety about penis size. This can be an unhealthy and often unnecessary fixation, especially because most men who think their penises are too small have perfectly normal-sized penises.

What Is Edging and Why Do People Do It?

Edging is the practice of stopping sexual stimulation before reaching orgasm to prolong a sexual experience. The term stems from the concept of approaching the metaphorical “edge” of orgasm but stopping before going over the edge.

Can Sex Reduce Menstrual Cramps?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Having sex while you experience menstrual cramps is healthy and can provide significant benefits. While it might not be the first activity that comes to mind when your PMS or period cramping begins, many people enjoy sex to reduce menstrual cramps, experience increased pleasure and benefit from other advantages. Learn more about having sex while menstrual cramps are happening and how it can help your body.

Can Sex Throw off Your Vaginal pH Balance?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Your vagina is a pretty powerful organ. It is a pathway for menstrual blood and babies. It also is a main player in sexual intercourse. You might hear about your vagina’s pH and worry that yours is at risk. Here’s what to know about vaginal pH, including the impacts sex could have.

Find a Provider

Find a provider who specializes in sexual medicine in your area.