Sexual Health Q&A

How does complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) affect sexual wellness?

Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) can have both physical and psychological effects on a person’s sexuality.

On a physical level, there can be problems with vaginal penetration. Sometimes, people with CAIS are not born with a fully developed vagina and need treatment to lengthen or widen it. (Please click here to learn more about the treatments available.) Even with treatment, intercourse may still be uncomfortable.

Psychologically, CAIS can have a tremendous impact on sexuality. Many women with CAIS feel sexually inadequate. They may have low self-confidence and self-esteem. They may also worry about a partner’s reaction should they disclose their situation. (Most partners cannot tell, although they may notice a lack of pubic hair.) Depression is common, too.

As a result, some women with CAIS do not have sex frequently. Some avoid relationships and sex altogether. They may feel uneasy and tense, which can affect the ability to reach orgasm. Overall, they may feel sexually unsatisfied.

Fortunately, help is available. Women with CAIS often benefit from sex therapy and relationship counseling to help them build confidence and cope with depression and anxiety. They can also find support in talking to other women with CAIS.