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Approximately 40% of women in the United States have reported experiencing the problem of inadequate lubrication during sexual activity. Inadequate lubrication is a physiological sign that a woman is insufficiently sexually aroused. Sexual arousal is both a psychological and physiological response, and women commonly become frustrated when their bodies do not reflect their psychological feelings of arousal. Without proper vaginal lubrication, intercourse can be painful and result in bodily injuries such as chaffing or tearing of the vaginal walls.
What causes inadequate lubrication in women?
Inadequate lubrication may be caused from psychological or physical factors. For women, sexual unresponsiveness is often tied to psychological issues. Any negative emotion such as anxiety, guilt, or fear during sexual activity may cause a lack of vaginal lubrication. Past traumatic experiences related to sex may also interfere with sexual responsiveness. Women with histories of sexual abuse, rape, molestation, or other negative experiences may have aversive responses to sexual contact. Another possible psychological cause of inadequate lubrication is conflict between a woman and her sexual partner. Sometimes women hold feelings of resentment, anger, or even fears about sexual performance even though they may love their partner deeply. Unresolved disputes can cause sexual difficulties, clinical depression, and negative feelings about a person or her body. Such feelings of stress cause the body to produce higher levels of the hormone epinephrine, which interferes with the body’s sexual response cycle and therefore impedes vaginal lubrication.
Physical factors can induce vaginal dryness as well. Vaginal dryness is a common complaint among postmenopausal women due to changes in estrogen levels. Since vagina mucosas are sensitive to estrogen levels, postmenopausal women require more time for proper lubrication. Hormone treatment is a possible solution, in which estrogen tablets, creams, or slow-release rings may be administered orally or directly to the vagina. Inadequate lubrication can also result from drug abuse or side effects of various medications. Tranquilizers, thaizides, spironolactone, narcotics, nicotine, alcohol, and sedatives impede sexual arousal and therefore inhibit adequate lubrication. Diabetes, scleroderma, hypertension, and heart or kidney disorders are also associated with sexual unresponsiveness. In such instances, a medical doctor may offer solutions for the arousal problem.
How can I treat inadequate lubrication?
There are various ways to remedy inadequate lubrication. A natural and cheap solution is to use lubricants during sex-such as KY jelly or Astroglide. However, if it is less of a physical issue or lubricants tend to not work well for you, it is important to communicate with your partner, as communication is often the best treatment for arousal disorder. Open and honest conversation allows a person to express possible fears about sexual contact, performance anxiety, or any negative feelings they may have. Expressing such emotions allows a person to understand their partner’s perspective and offer warmth, empathy and reassurance. Couples can discuss ways to make each partner feel more comfortable and relaxed when engaging in sexual activity.
Most often, inadequate lubrication is simply due to insufficient amounts of foreplay. Extending time for foreplay allows the woman to become more psychologically and physiologically aroused. Many people also find that sensate focus is a wonderful technique for promoting arousal and lubrication. Another important thing to remember is to refrain from faking sexual arousal and/or sexual gratification. Faking an orgasm will only magnify the problem, creating feelings of resentment or distrust. Nothing is solved, and the difficulties do NOT simply go away. Finally, it is good to point out that a woman can still have a normal and healthy sex life even if she continues to have problems with lubrication. Experimenting with different lubricants and ways of applying them will ensure that sex is still fun and enjoyable despite utilizing alternate forms of lubrication.
Personal lubricants (also known as lube) offer a solution for those who either do not lubricate enough or do not lubricate at all. They can also be used to enhance different sensations or create novelty, regardless of whether partners lubricate enough or not! For instance, some lubes are flavored, while others offer a warming sensation. Lubricants work by reducing friction between body parts during sexual activitiy. They can be used by partners engaging in sexual activity or during masturbation.
Types of Lubricants
- Water-based lubricants are the most commonly used lubricants, and although they have the tendency to dry out, they can be reapplied as needed. They are water-soluble, which means they dissolve in water. Therefore, water-based lubricants are incompatible with sexual activities that involve water, such as in the shower, bathtub, pool, etc. Examples of water-based lubricants are KY Jelly or Astroglide.
- Silicone-based lubricants last longer than water-based lubricants because they are not absorbed by skin or mucus membranes. In addition, they do not dissolve in water, which makes them compatible for water-related sexual activities. They also offer a different sensation than water-based lubricants.
- Oil-based lubricants are only recommended for women who have experienced irritation from over-the-counter lubricants and DO NOT use condoms. Oil-based lubricants cause condoms to lose their elasticity, thus raising the risk that the condom will break or slip off. Therefore, if you are not in a monogamous relationship and are using condoms, be sure to use either water or silicone-based lubricants, NOT oil-based lubricants. Examples of oil-based lubricants are baby oil, Vaseline, and even whipped cream.
When using personal lubricants with a partner, make sure that they do not contain nonoxynol-9 (n-9), a spermicide that has been shown to cause skin irritations and tears that allow viruses (especially HIV) to be transmitted more easily.
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Last Updated: April 12, 2012