Talking to Your Doctor About Sexual Health

Talking to Your Doctor About Sexual Health

Posted By Lion's Den
Young, female doctor in white coat, counsels older Black man in patient room. A white frame surrounds image, text in magenta “Talking to Your Doctor About Sexual Health” "Pillow Talk" in magenta is in upper right.

Talking to Your Doctor About Sexual Health

Doctors are there to help, not judge you.

 

Talking about sex can be fun: sharing fantasies with your partner or trading spicy stories with your friends is a great way to express and explore your sexuality. But we’re guessing that talking to your doctor about your sexual health isn’t high on your list of fun and sexy activities.

But it should be!

Yes, we understand it might be a little awkward to talk to your primary healthcare provider about your sexual escapades or if something is a little off down there, but few people are better equipped to help keep your body in working condition. 

If you need help figuring out how to initiate or navigate a conversation around sexual health with your doctor, we’re here to help.

 

Woman (right) in peach top and beige sweater is consulting with a doctor (LEFT). Both are looking at a tablet the doctor is holding.Woman (right) in peach top and beige sweater is consulting with a doctor (LEFT). Both are looking at a tablet the doctor is holding.

 

Honesty is the Best Policy

Above all else, be honest. Your doctor can only work with the information they have, so make sure you give them every piece of your puzzle. And unfortunately, your provider might not bring up the topic themselves, so you must be proactive. According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, “63% percent of ob/gyns reported routinely assessing patients' sexual activities; 40% routinely asked about sexual problems. Fewer asked about sexual satisfaction (28.5%), sexual orientation/identity (27.7%), or pleasure with sexual activity (13.8%).” 

Unfortunately, we live in a society that isn’t always comfortable with honest and objective conversations around sex, but that doesn’t mean that these conversations aren’t worth having. You are paying your provider for their expertise, so advocate for your money’s worth. Tell them if you are experiencing pain, discomfort, a lack of desire, or other changes in your sexual health.

 

Couple is sitting at a desk, facing a doctor, (their backs are at camera) who is giving them advice. Doctor is woman with white coat and stethoscope around her neck.Couple is sitting at a desk, facing a doctor, (their backs are at camera) who is giving them advice. Doctor is woman with white coat and stethoscope around her neck.

 

Speak Up for Yourself

Self-advocacy is required for any quality of care. It’s common for sexual concerns to be dismissed as a lack of confidence or an abundance of nerves. So be specific in your issue, whether it is an inability to maintain an erection or extreme physical pain during penetration. Sex is fundamentally supposed to be pleasurable, and high levels of pain are not normal.

On Cedar-Sinai Hospitals blog, they share, “Just because painful sex is very common, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as “normal.’” The experts at Cedar-Sinai Hospital counsel that painful sex usually has a cause, which can be identified and treated. Ideally, sooner rather than later. Painful sex could be a condition of the pelvic region, such as prolapse, endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, or even cancer. Having an open and honest dialogue about your sexual health could save your life.

 

Prepare for Conversations with Your Doctor

If you struggle with anxiety or managing conversations, try writing down a list of your concerns beforehand. Good Therapy recommends this strategy to keep conversation streamlined and concise. For example, they write: “How many times have you walked out of an exam room and remembered one more, quick question for the doctor? When people are put on the spot or are nervous, they may forget what they wanted to talk about. Having talking points and questions written down will help you stay focused and organized.”

Part of advocating for yourself is ensuring you have a paper trail. Your list of concerns makes it easier to diagnose any potential issues, as your provider will have all relevant information at hand. It also increases the accountability of your provider. For example, if you have brought up a concern with your body and are dismissed, request that your healthcare provider record in your chart that you brought up X concern and your provider is choosing to withhold care.

 

Older Black woman (right) is in hospital gown speaking with doctor (left) who has long black hair in a pony tail, a white lab coat, and is facing the patient (back is at camera). Black woman is animated with her hands with a neutral look on her face.Older Black woman (right) is in hospital gown speaking with doctor (left) who has long black hair in a pony tail, a white lab coat, and is facing the patient (back is at camera). Black woman is animated with her hands with a neutral look on her face.

 

Choose the Doctor Best for You

And most importantly, remember that you are free to “fire” your doctor. If they do not believe you, you feel like you are not receiving adequate care, or you are simply not vibing with your healthcare provider, you are free to find a different healthcare provider who aligns with your needs and values.

SexualBeing.org asserts that people’s poor healthcare or subpar relationships with healthcare providers is often rooted in a mistrust of the provider themself. People fear they may be judged or their provider might not be able to adequately care for their unique needs. Find a doctor who you are comfortable sharing details of your sexuality with. Make sure it’s a safe space to discuss your gender, the kinds of sex you’re having, and the struggles you face. And if this doctor or provider doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who will give you the care you deserve.

 

Although it might be awkward initially, you will feel better knowing the answers to your burning questions rather than wishing you would have asked after leaving the office. If a doctor or health care provider does judge you, makes you feel uncomfortable, or does not provide an adequate answer to your sexual health concerns, then that provider may not be the one for you. Doctors and health care workers are human, and just like all humans, they can be biased in how they practice medicine. 

It is better to know up front if your healthcare team is willing and able to have discussions around sexual health because as we all know, sexual health is essential healthcare. A good doctor will help you through your concerns, and make you feel comfortable for advocating for yourself.

 

 

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