What to Do if Your Doctor Is Too Embarrassed or Busy to Talk About Sex


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Doctors aren't supposed to squirm when sex comes up, but some do—or pass the buck.
(MASTERFILE)
You and your doctor need to talk about your sex life—especially if you're having libido problems. "You should talk to your health care provider about sex like you're talking to them about a hangnail," says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an ob-gyn professor at Columbia University. In fact, you may be putting your health at risk if the subject doesn't come up, since a drop in sex drive could be a symptom of a serious underlying medical issue such as heart disease or diabetes.

But what if your doctor is uncomfortable about having this conversation? Dr. Hutcherson tells horror stories about doctors ignoring their patients' sexual questions—or responding in an unprofessional manner. "A woman who was in her 70s told me she was talking to her doctor about vaginal dryness and how sex had become painful, and he said, 'You're still having sex?' Totally inappropriate response," she says.

If you can't get your doctor to focus on your sex drive problems, you may need to look around for a new doctor—whether it's a general practitioner who's comfortable with the subject or a sexual health specialist.

Maybe your doctor just doesn't have the time
Keep in mind, however, that there may be financial reasons why your doctor won't discuss your sex drive with you, says Alan M. Altman, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in menopausal issues and midlife sexuality.

"There are many doctors or practitioners who really don't want anything to do with [sexual medicine] because it takes so long," says Dr. Altman. Managed care plans, he says, don't encourage doctors to take time to really talk to their patients in the way that's necessary to properly diagnose and treat a sexual health problem.
Lead writer: Louise Sloan
Last Updated: April 13, 2008

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