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Many Gynecologists Don’t Talk About Sex

Study: Just 28% Ask Patients About Sexual Orientation
WebMD Health News

March 22, 2012 -- Many gynecologists aren’t asking women enough questions about their sex lives or sexuality, and this may compromise care.

According to a new study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 63% of more than 1,150 ob-gyns said they typically ask women about their sex lives. That said, these doctors don’t ask about other aspects of their sexuality. For example, just 40% of the doctors asked women questions about sexual problems and/or dysfunction, 29% asked about sexual satisfaction, and only 28% routinely confirmed a women’s sexual orientation.

“The most alarming finding here is how many of us rarely or never talk about sexual orientation,” says study author Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD. She is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medicine. “This is unfathomable.”

As a result, women who are lesbian or bisexual may feel stigmatized. “Even when a physician knows a patient is a lesbian, they may wrongly assume that she is not interested in childbearing or contraception,” Lindau says.

Many Barriers Exist

The new study did not look at why doctors don’t broach the subject of sex. But “there are a number of barriers that impact an obstetrician’s ability to raise the topic, from a paucity of treatments for sexual dysfunction in women, to not wanting to embarrass or offend a woman, to simply not having enough time,” she says.

Some of the onus may fall on women. “If you have a concern about your sexual function or are having pain during sex or not experiencing pleasure, raise the topic, “ she says. “If your doctor is unwilling or unable to discuss the matter, ask for a referral.”

There are not-so-awkward ways to bring it up. “Ask what to expect after having a baby,” she says. “You don’t have to admit there is problem.”

Women's health expert Donnica Moore, MD, agrees. She is president of Sapphire Women's Health Group in Far Hills, N.J. “If your doctor is not bringing it up and it is an issue for you, you should bring it up,” she says.

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