Ask Your Doctor! (or Nurse or PT)

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Regular readers know that I’ve complained about the medical profession’s treatment of sexual issues more than once.

Now let’s talk about what they do great–if we let them. And that’s give us accurate information about our bodies, and help us make tricky sexual decisions and lifestyle adjustments to various health conditions.

I understand that not every American has access to high-quality medical care. But many of us do, whether it’s through a doctor, or through Planned Parenthood, the local ER, a pharmacist, or a nurse or physical therapist.

Every single one of these licensed professionals is a better bet than a google search with generic answers or even worse, a “support group” or forum of lay people discussing their condition.

When I ask patients about this, what I often hear is “Oh, I didn’t think of it.” And fearing a doctor’s or nurse’s possible critical judgements is NOT a good enough reason to not ask your question. A patient will sometimes even tell me, “Ask my doctor about sex? She’d die of embarrassment if I did that!”

So here are some things you can definitely ASK your healthcare provider about:

~ The side effects of various kinds of birth control; fears that hormonal contraception leads to cancer (it doesn’t)

~ Dealing with menopause; fears that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) leads to cancer (it doesn’t)

~ You get sore when something’s inserted into your vagina

~ When you’re contagious regarding cold sores, a cold, a rash anywhere, herpes or other STI

~ The sexual side effects of the new drug you’re going to start taking

~ There’s a discharge or discoloration of your genitalia

~How you can masturbate or have partner sex when you’re struggling with chronic pain, restricted range of motion, or reduced stamina

Note that PTs and nurses are geniuses at giving us workarounds for daily living with reduced function—for example, how to masturbate when you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or how to enjoy oral sex when you’re recovering from TMJ. These professionals would love to share their knowledge, so ask them your sex-while-healing questions.

And here are things you should TELL your health care provider, who doesn’t have the time to ask about every aspect of sexuality:

~ My spouse or significant other isn’t my primary sexual partner

~ I have sex with more than just one gender of partner

~ I’m involved in BDSM play (which might explain unusual bruises, and may put me at higher risk for certain STIs)

~ Sexually, I put stuff in my butt, either with a partner or when I’m alone

Perhaps the most important aspect of sexuality that you can and SHOULD discuss with a healthcare professional is “Am I normal?”

Patients shyly ask me about hair growing from their nipples; preferring oral sex to intercourse; whether their labia look normal or freaky (they’re almost always within the range of normal); whether it’s safe to insert something in the urethra (I caution against it); what it means if they can’t ejaculate in a vagina; if Viagra is safe for women (safe, yes; helpful, no); and many other questions to which I respond “Here’s what I know, but you’d be smart to ask a doctor or nurse.”

Almost every year, I lecture groups of medical professionals, urging them to raise the issue of sex in its many different forms. Some of them do already, of course. But one really common response I get is–“Oh, raise the subject of sex with my patients? They’d die of embarrassment!”

Are you one of those patients? If you aren’t, tell your doc or nurse or PT.

Like short videos about sex? See my library of quickies at

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