“So How’s Your Sex Life Going?”

Does Your Doctor Ask You About Sex?

July 21, 2020

The Paper Gown – “How is your sex life going? Are you and your partner on the same page about what’s pleasurable?”

If you’ve never fielded questions like those from a doctor, you’re not alone. According to a review of 33 studies in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, most patients say they’d feel comfortable discussing their sexual health in the exam room — but only if their providers initiated the conversation.

Yet most doctors aren’t taking the lead. Many health experts see this as a missed opportunity.

“Sexual health doesn’t exist apart from physical and mental health,” says Aleta Baldwin, associate professor of public health at California State University, Sacramento, who was not involved with the review. “Issues with sexual health can be causes or symptoms of other health issues. If these conversations don’t happen, these issues can go unresolved.”

The National Coalition for Sexual Health agrees. The organization, which seeks to improve Americans’ sexual health, is developing an updated approach to incorporating questions that address sexual satisfaction, functioning and concerns, and support for a patient’s gender identity and sexual orientation into routine patient visits, and plans to release its tool in the fall.

“If doctors take a comprehensive and inclusive sexual health history, they can better understand their patient’s level of risk, determine whether they need to recommend screenings or vaccinations, and offer appropriate counseling and education about contraceptives, STI treatment, and sexual pleasure and functioning,” says NCSH co-director Jennifer Rogers. “But it’s not only disease avoidance that matters; sexual wellness, including sexual pleasure, is also a key element of good sexual health.”

Barriers to sex talks

Individual healthcare providers aren’t completely to blame for not asking about sexual health.

For one thing, it’s not typically part of the curriculum in medical school. “Sexual health might sometimes be addressed insofar as it’s related to STIs or pregnancy. But it’s not given its own domain,” Baldwin says … Read more. 

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