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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | November 12th, 2017


    “I am embarrassed to talk about my sexual problems with my doctor”

    “It is not a big deal, it isn’t cancer”

    “I do not think there is anything anyone can do about my sexual problems”

    “When I go to the doctor for my annual exam, they never ask about my sexual health”

    Let me use this opportunity to address the above comments:

    • You should never feel embarrassed to talk with your health care provider about any subject that affects your health.
    • Sexual health is a big deal and if you are having problems, it needs to be addressed.
    • Yes, we can do something. There are many causes of sexual health problems and there are solutions.
    • Lastly, I want to share a little secret – while you might be embarrassed to talk about your sexual health, some physicians might not want to talk about it because they have not been trained to handle sexual health problems.

    Sexual health is an important part of your overall health and if you are having issues, you should not ‘suffer in silence’. A little over 40 percent of women in the United States have had some sexual health issue in their lifetime, so you are not alone.

    The American Sexual Health Association defines sexual health as the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health.  Problems with our sexual health can occur at any age and can be the result of multiple factors.  If your provider cannot help you, then you should ask for a referral.

    When it comes to sexual function, there is no set ‘normal’. What might be normal and acceptable for one person, might cause distress for another. Sexuality is influenced by several factors – biological, psychological, interpersonal, and cultural. If you are having sexual health problems, you need to know that it may not be solved within one visit and that although you may briefly talk about it at your annual well woman visit, you may need to have a visit specifically dedicated to addressing any issue you may have regarding sexual function.

    Since there can be many reasons why a person may have problems with their sexual health (sexual dysfunction), you might be given a questionnaire (see below). Sometimes the solution might be as easy as changing your medication because we know that certain medications can affect your desire for sex or so complex that you may need to see a sexual health specialist. Whatever the cause, it is worth exploring  so that we can find a solution.


    Please answer the following questions about your overall sexual function in the past 3 months or more.

    1. Are you satisfied with your sexual function?

    □    Yes                  □ No, if No, please continue.

    2. How long have you been dissatisfied with your sexual function? _______

    3. The problem(s) with your sexual function is: (mark one or more)

    a.       Problems with little or no interest in sex

    b.      Problems with decreased genital sensation (feeling)

    c.       Problems with decreased vaginal lubrication (dryness)

    d.      Problems reaching orgasm

    e.      Problems with pain during sex

    f.        Other:

    4. Which problem (in question 3) is most bothersome (circle)   a   b   c   d   e   f

    5. Would you like to talk about it with your health care provider?

    □   Yes                   □   No

    1Hatzichristou, D et al. J Sex Med, 2004;1:49 -57



    Use this checklist as a way to start the conversation. Sexual health does affect the quality of our lives. There is no reason to ‘suffer in silence’.

    For more information on sexual health, please visit the American Sexual Health Association.

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