For lots of people – including doctors and patients – sex is an awkward subject.
The topic of sexuality doesn’t always come up in the doctor’s office, even when it’s impacted by health conditions and treatments. Both patients and healthcare providers may feel uncomfortable addressing sexual issues, or some might think that sex-related questions aren’t important.
Some patients feel so embarrassed by their sexual problem that they stay silent. Or they turn to friends, family, and the internet for answers. And while there are reliable sources out there, it can be difficult to vet which ones are best. Friends and relatives may have good intentions, but if they are not medical professionals, their opinions and experiences might not apply to your situation.
It’s important for patients to ask their sex-related questions. The following slides may help you feel more comfortable about doing so.
For most of us, being sexual is part of our biology. It’s intimate and personal, but it’s part of what makes us human. By taking care of your sexual health, you are taking care of your overall well-being.
Remember, too, that sex is a natural part of life no matter who you are – young or old, cisgender or transgender, healthy or ill. Some people feel like they shouldn’t be thinking about sex, but it is perfectly normal to do so. Your questions and concerns are valid.
Your Doctor is There for You
Your doctor is a professional. Even if their specialty isn’t sexual medicine, they should still be able to help. If you need to, feel free to ask for a referral to another type of specialist, like a urologist or sex therapist. (For tips on seeing a sexual medicine provider for the first time, click here.)
Having the Conversation
Here are some tips for having the discussion:
- Schedule extra time for your appointment if you think you will need it.
- Before you talk, try taking a few deep, calming breaths.
- It’s okay to admit you’re feeling nervous or awkward. Your provider will likely try to put you at ease and encourage you to open up.
- Don’t hesitate to ask direct questions like, “How will this treatment affect my sexual function?” or “Can you refer me to a sex therapist?”
- If you feel uncomfortable with conversations in person, consider having your talk over the phone, through video chat, or with email.
- Ask your doctor if there are print, audio, or visual materials they can recommend so you can learn more.
- If you really feel that you can’t approach your provider about a sexual matter, think about seeing a different provider that you feel more comfortable with.
“Talking about sexual health with your doctor doesn’t have to be awkward”
(October 7, 2017)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Reese, Jennifer Barsky, PhD, et al.
“Understanding Sexual Help-Seeking for Women With Breast Cancer: What Distinguishes Women Who Seek Help From Those Who Do Not?”
(Full-text. Published: July 12, 2020)
National Institute on Aging
“How to Talk with Your Doctor About Sensitive Issues”
(Content reviewed: February 3, 2020)
“How to Talk to Your Doctor About Sex”
(January 16, 2019)