We need to talk about the struggle to reach orgasm

Did you know that research shows that 50% of women are not reaching climax during sex? Many things can stand in the way of orgasms and enjoyment, particularly among women. Medicines, including antidepressants, hormonal deficiency and partner issues are just some of the challenges that can be created reaching climax.

However, as many of us will know stress is another big factor and understandably this might have been amplified during the pandemic. Money worries, fears of illness, being isolated at home are all reasons to take a toll on your sex life and the ability to stay present — in turn having an impact on our orgasms.

We're amid a pandemic; the fear of the unknown, the uncertainty; can create anxiety and stress. Therefore it’s important to recognise that this is a very normal reaction to an incredibly overwhelming situation.

Mindfulness is a great way to help stay present during sexual activity. Research shows that for some women, distraction and negative emotions during sex might keep from enjoying the sensations of sexual activity. Mindfulness can help turn the volume of some of those loaded thoughts down — scientific research actually shows that it can help make the Amygdala (the part of our brain that fight/flight or freeze response originates from) smaller after 8 weeks of daily use.

Apps such as Calm or Headspace are great ways to practice and get a feel as to how it works regularly before you implement it into your daily routine. Ferly is an app that focuses on female pleasure and engagement and has activities that can help you engage with your body.

It’s important to also create some time to have a think about what may have been happening for you, there may have been things outside of the pandemic that may have had an impact on reaching orgasm. Have a think as to why that may be; has anything changed for you since that time? Are there any stressors or worries that you are experiencing? Has anything shifted with your partner or how you view yourself?

Alongside this, communication is key. Talking about what we desire or challenges that we have can feel uncomfortable, with sex we can end up avoiding the topic or arguing. However, talking about sex is incredibly beneficial, it can mean you have more opportunities to enthusiastically give consent, get your desires/fantasies met and build intimacy.

Try to have the conversations sober, outside of the bedroom and with all devices put away. If you’re feeling awkward and you find the conversation difficult. Try to be factual. Think about how you like to be touched. Perhaps start with “ I really like it when you__” or “It turns me on when you __”. Try using examples of previous times too. “Remember last week when you ___ ? That felt really good”

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor (the group of muscles in your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum) and improves blood flow to the vaginal area strengthening orgasms. You can even buy kegel balls online such as Sex Siopa (plus you would be supporting small, local businesses!).

Finally, take the pressure off climax, if it’s the case that orgasms are difficult at the moment; take them off the table. Instead focus on pleasure, relaxation and connection (with yourself or partner), massages, cuddles and kisses are of equal importance and can help build intimacy.

Remember that this is a very stressful time. It’s perfectly understandable to feel overwhelmed and that to have an impact on your sex life. Meeting yourself with compassion is fundamental. Focus on looking after yourself and implementing some self-care routines, whatever they may look like to you.

By Aoife Drury – Psychosexual and Relationship therapist