Why It's Important to Talk to Your Doctor About Sex
It is crucial to talk with your doctor about sex. However, the topic can be difficult to bring up. Here are some tips to make the conversation easier.
Why Is It so Important to Talk to Your Doctor About Sex?
Even if it is embarrassing at first, it is in everyone's best interest to be open with their doctors about sexual health concerns. After all, there are quite a wide variety of medical concerns surrounding sex, including:
- decreased libido
- erectile dysfunction
- pain during sex
- pregnancy prevention
- sexually transmitted diseases and their prevention
- vaginal dryness
If you never bring up your sexual health concerns with your physician, your health and well-being can suffer greatly as a result. For example, if you are too afraid to ask your doctor about the proper ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections, you could unknowingly contract one, and some STDs can be quite dangerous.
Even things not so dire as a life-threatening infection can be a big detriment to your health and happiness. Many underestimate the importance of a healthy sex drive and sexual satisfaction; it can impact your relationship satisfaction, intimacy with your partner and even your overall life satisfaction. Getting complete and accurate information from your doctor about how to maintain optimal sexual health is crucial. Everyone deserves to have a good sex life and in order to achieve this, you must be able to have a frank conversation about it with your doctor.
Why Sex Is a Difficult Topic
Sex, and talking about sex, is considered taboo by many cultures. One can speculate about why this is, but the truth is that no one really knows. Sex is viewed by society as embarrassing, improper and immoral, and so is simply talking about sex. Especially in the West, sex has historically been subject to many religious rules, ideas of morality and social norms. Sex being taboo is so deeply ingrained in our minds since childhood that it can even be embarrassing to ask your doctor about sexual health, something that should not be taboo.
The difficulty of talking about sex also can come partially from your doctor's side. Medical professionals may also feel uncomfortable being the first person to bring up the subject, or they may be afraid to risk making you uncomfortable by asking about your sex life.
Your doctor is human and so he or she might make assumptions about you and your sex life. A doctor might assume, consciously or subconsciously, you are too old, too young or too religious to need to talk about sexual health. Or, if you are married with children, a doctor may assume you have it covered. The truth is that people of all demographics and lifestyles can have sexual health concerns, and should be able to talk openly about sex with their doctors.
Making the Conversation Easier
Here are some important tips for patients for when you want to talk with your doctor about sex:
- Try to think of any questions about sexual health before your appointment. Think about how you want to phrase the question. This way, you will feel more prepared.
- Be as honest as possible about your sex life, even if it is embarrassing. Remember that your doctor can help you better if he or she has been given accurate information.
- Honesty with your doctor should include disclosing if you are LGBT. The privacy of the doctor’s office is a safe place to share this information, and it is very important because LGBT people can face a much different set of health concerns and risk factors.
- Feel free to use casual language when talking about sex with your doctor. If you don’t know the scientific or medical terms for what you want to talk about, don’t let it stop you. Your doctor will not get offended.
- Do not be afraid to take the initiative in starting a conversation about sex. You should not expect your doctor to be the first to bring it up. If you are embarrassed, work up the courage before your appointment starts. Try to bring up your questions and concerns early on into the visit, rather than at the end.
- After your doctor has answered your questions, be sure to ask any follow-up questions you may have, and to ask for clarification if you need it.
- There may be occasions where even if you are not talking directly about sex, you may have a sexual health question. For example, you may be wondering whether a new medication or health condition has any sexual side effects. Remember that such questions are completely normal and have their rightful place in a medical discussion.
Following all of these tips will help an individual talk frankly with their doctor about their sexual health. However, ideally there would be less of a need for tips like these—there is also work to be done on the part of medical professionals. The reality is that medical school itself does not provide enough education on this topic.
According to one study from the Medical College of Georgia, over half of medical schools devote only five to ten curricular hours to sexual topics over the course of a doctor's education. More thorough and comprehensive education for doctors, both about sex itself and about how to broach the topic with patients, can help bridge this divide in doctor-patient conversations.