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Talking to Your Health Care Provider about...Sex!

Sexual Dysfunction

You can talk to your health care provider about many issues—your blood pressure, the rash you got last time you went strawberry picking and even details about your heavy menstrual periods. But what about your sex life?

If you're like most women, the answer is "maybe not." In a 1999 survey, many women with sexual problems said they didn't want to discuss these issues with their health care providers. Ten years later, that feeling hasn't changed. According to a survey conducted in 2009, just 18 percent of the 1,200 women (ages 18 to 50 years) with some type of a sexual problem reported going to their health care provider about it.

Why the reluctance to address an issue we see every night on television or on the cover of magazines every day? One reason may be fear of embarrassing your health care provider. That's what 68 percent of respondents in the 1999 survey said.

The fact is, health care providers, including many obstetrician/gynecologists, primary care providers and other types of doctors and nurses, say many could feel uncomfortable addressing sexual issues with their patients. They may be embarrassed or don't think they know enough about the topic. They also worry about the "can of worms" they might open if they bring up the subject.

In addition, 71 percent of women thought their health care providers would dismiss their concerns even if they did raise them. In the 2009 survey, women said they didn't see a health care provider for their problems because they didn't think the problems were important enough!

It's time for all of us to understand that, like other health issues, sexual health concerns are an important part of our lives and deserve attention. But, you might need to be prepared to be assertive about your sexual health concerns, depending on your health care provider.

So, if you have a sexual problem—whether it's lack of interest or desire, pain or even an inability to have an orgasm—make an appointment with your health care provider, one you feel most comfortable talking with specifically about your sexual health. For many women, this is an ob/gyn, gynecologic nurse practitioner or midwife. Treat it seriously. After all, sexual health issues can affect various aspects of your's important you address them!

If you're nervous or embarrassed, then write down your concerns and bring the list with you to the appointment. Use whatever words you feel comfortably convey the problem. And be specific, not only about the problem itself, but about how it affects you and your relationship with your partner.

There are options for relieving sexual problems. The first step in finding the best one for you begins with a conversation.

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