Some of us might feel timid when talking about our sex lives, whether it’s with our partners or our health care providers. While it may feel scary or embarrassing to discuss sexual health, doing so can improve your personal relationships and give your healthcare providers a full picture of your overall health. Our practitioners explain the benefits of talking about your sexual health with both your partners and medical providers.
Health Care Providers Explain What Sexual Health Means
Before we can get to the heart of why talking about sexual health matters, it’s crucial to examine what “sexual health” is. The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” If that definition sounds both broad and complex at the same time, it is. Why? Sexual health encompasses all aspects of our day-to-day life, which is why communicating about sexual health is so vital to overall wellness.Here are just a few aspects that fall under the umbrella of sexual health:
- Sexually transmitted disease risk and diagnoses
- Body image in relation to sexual activity
- Sexual identity and relationships
- Safer sex practices
- Establishing boundaries
- Engaging in positive sexual practices
Why Talk About Sexual Health with Your Practitioner and Partner
Learning to take charge of your sexual health will have long-lasting benefits and will only serve to help you cultivate better physical and mental wellness. Here are five examples of how opening up about your sexual health can benefit you:
1. Prevent or Treat STIs and HIV:
Sexually transmitted infections are nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, millions of people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with an STI. However, these infections are not to be taken lightly, either. Many of these diseases can have long-lasting physical effects and can be easily transmitted to your sexual partners. So, management and treatment are necessary to keep everyone safe. If you have been engaging in unprotected sex acts, have concerns about physical symptoms, or want to talk about risk factors, you should consult with your physician. They can help in several ways:
- Help treat common infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with antibiotics
- Advise on and prescribe medications for non-curable viruses like HIV and herpes
- Administer vaccinations for STDs like Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Discuss ways to engage in safer sex practices
2. Encourage Safer Sex Practices
Safe sex practices can help prevent unwanted pregnancy, as well as reduce the risk of STIs. Having open and honest conversations with your healthcare provider can ensure you are informed and get the care you may need. Your health care physician can prescribe hormone-based birth control, recommend an IUD, or discuss barrier methods.
3. Aid in Pregnancy Planning
Not all aspects of sexual health are about prevention. If you and your partner hope to grow your family and get pregnant, candid conversations concerning ovulation, menstrual cycles, and a healthy lifestyle are important. Your family care practitioner can also assist you in pregnancy planning by offering physical exams, providing parenting tools, and helping you stay healthy during your pregnancy.
4. Promote Healthy Relationships and Positive Body Image
Being open to talking about your sexual health with any partner will help you establish more positive boundaries and communicate your needs. Part of a healthy sexual relationship means feeling comfortable expressing your likes and dislikes, determining safe sex practices, and drawing clear lines of consent. Your health care provider can also assist you in cultivating positive sexual health habits by providing mental health resources to get out of a troubling relationship, and talking about body image and dysmorphia as it pertains to sexuality.
5. Boost Health and Reduce Risk of Death
Sexual health goes beyond STIs, pleasure, and pregnancy—being honest with your doctor about your sexual health can also save your life. If you are experiencing pain during sex, have excessive vaginal bleeding, urinary issues, or difficulty conceiving, these could all be signs of an underlying health issue. Serious issues like prostate and gynecological cancers have high survival rates if diagnosed and treated early. Benign health concerns, like urinary tract infections and fibroid tumors, can cause pain but have plenty of treatment options.
Schedule a Sexual Health Exam at NWPC Today
Whether you are looking for a complete exam or need to talk to one of our caring practitioners, NWPC is here to help you take charge of your sexual health. We offer telehealth visits and in-person appointments at all our Portland clinics. Contact us today!