How to talk to your doctor about sex


How to talk to your doctor about sex

A healthy sex life makes a difference to your overall health. It encourages healthy relationships, provides an outlet for stress, and gives you a sense of well-being. That’s why sexual health should not be taken for granted.  Having a sense of confidence and feeling comfortable talking about your sex with a healthcare provider is a true gift.

If you’re experiencing problems with sexual satisfaction, it’s time to have a discussion with your doctor.  I know that may be the last thing you want to do. But for the sake of saving your sex life, think of it as being no different than if you were having issues with digestion or an aching back.  It’s best to be honest, getting the problem out in the open so you and your doctor can work on a solution.

Now is the time to be in charge of your sexual health.  There is strong evidence that a person’s ability to function sexually is a basic part of their ability to function physically. Just like your blood pressure, body temperature, and weight are assessed at each doctor’s visit, your sexual health functioning is really no different.  When we have a healthy sex life, it is very likely we are having a healthy relationship with our partner. 

However, your sex life should not be taken for granted.  If a man is experiencing erectile dysfunction or a woman vaginal dryness, these problems need to be out in the open so you and your doctor can work on a solution.  The problem though is many people become timid or embarrassed about bringing up sexual problems.  They clam up, not wanting to talk about it. 

Ideally, doctors should be the ones to initiate the conversation.  But, this is not always the case.  In a study of OB-GYNs nationwide, about two-thirds routinely asked about patients’ sexual activity, 40 percent asked about sexual problems, 29 percent asked about sexual satisfaction, and only 28 percent about sexual orientation.  Many doctors may worry that if they ask a patient about how their sex life is, they may offend the patient or they feel uncomfortable with their own knowledge about certain sexual issues. 

Sexual health issues

If your sex life is suffering, other areas of your life will be affected too.  Your mental, physical and emotional health all is affected by your ability to enjoy sex.  Whether it’s dealing with a lack of interest in sex, a bad sexual experience causing you to avoid sex, or a common sexual health, having a candid, frank talk with your doctor can be a first important step in fixing the problem. 

Communication is at the root of dealing with sexual health issues.  It can and may be embarrassing to start the conversation but once you broach the topic, most doctors will be more than willing to listen giving you good advice.

How to talk to your doctor about sex

There are many ways to initiate the conversation.  What feels right for one person may not feel right for someone else. Here are some ways to consider opening the door for a thorough discussion on whatever sexual problems you want to bring up with your doctor:

·      Get past your fear of embarrassment.  Your doctor has had many conversations with other patients regarding sex. 

·      Be prepared before the visit.  If it helps, write out your questions of what you want to ask.  Provide as much detail as you can to help your doctor understand exactly what is going on.

·      Practice how you will start the conversation and practice asking questions.

·      Start off by saying, “I have a personal issue I would like to ask you about.”  It’s usually best to bring this up at the start of your visit instead of at the end when the doctor is reaching for the doorknob getting ready to leave.

·      If you think sexual issues will take up a large amount of time, let the nurse know in advance so the doctor can prepare for the discussion too.

·      If your doctor does not know the answer to your question, ask for a referral for someone who will know the answer.  A second opinion is always good.

·      Unless you ask, you may never know and be stuck with a problem that is easily fixed.  For instance, a woman having painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness can be given several suggestions that can immensely improve her sex life fulfilling and restoring her enjoyment of it once again.