Women with disabilities have lower rates of sexual activity than non-disabled women.
A national survey revealed that most women with disabilities have had sexual experience at some time in their lives, and nearly half were sexually active at the time of the survey. However, they were significantly less likely to be sexually active currently and within the last month than women without disabilities. The severity of the disability was not related to the amount of sexual activity.
In a study of sexual activity in women with spinal cord injury:
- Sexual activity decreased after injury, as age increased, and in comparison with able-bodied women
- Preferences in types of sexual activity changed after injury; the favorite activity was intercourse before injury but kissing, hugging and touching were favored after injury.
In some studies, the importance of having sexual activity remained unchanged after spinal cord injury; in others, importance decreased after injury. Women with spinal cord injury have reported difficulty in getting potential partners to understand that they were still interested and able to have sexual activity after injury.
Women with early onset physical disabilities experienced less sexual activity and were more dissatisfied with their frequency of sexual activity than women without disabilities, according to one study. Studies of women with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and stroke demonstrated lower rates of sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse, and higher rates of complete abstinence from sexual activity, compared with before disease onset and compared with women without these disorders.
Fear of losing bowel or bladder control during sexual activity leads women with multiple sclerosis or their partners to avoid sexual activity.