When you pay your healthcare provider a visit, you expect to make the usual rounds – vaccines(check!), medications(check!) – you know, the predictable + general how-are-you-feeling, back-and-forth dialogue we play during these appointments.
However, one aspect often goes overlooked and unspoken: sexual health.
Discussing intimate topics can be intimidating, but it’s crucial for our overall well-being (see: cervical health!). That’s why we’ve got tips for you to navigate sexual health conversations with your provider that will take the awkwardness out of your appointment.
Betties, your safety is essential for open + honest dialogue with your healthcare provider. You entrust them with your concerns + care. In turn, they should be taking the appropriate steps to create a respectful and non-judgmental space for you to discuss all aspects of your health. Not finding or feeling this with your current provider? It might be time to take your care elsewhere – and that’s okay!
Take a pulse check before you hit the exam room, so you feel open to share + confident from the get-go that your provider has your best interests in mind.
GET THE CONVERSATION GOING
Okay, so you’re down for discussing but have not a clue how to start! No sweat, Betties. Try on one of these openers to help get the conversation going:
For Betties who want some general sexual health pointers:
“I’ve recently become sexually active, and I want to make sure I am taking the right precautions. Can we talk through safe sex practices and contraception options?
For Betties who are not sexually active but are thinking ahead:
“I’ve never had sex, but I want to be safe when I make that decision. What can I do?
For Betties who want to know the STI 411:
“I have heard about the importance of regular STI screenings. Based on my sexual activity, when should I get tested, and what tests are recommended?
For Betties who are feeling the ouchies:
“I’m experiencing discomfort during sexual activity. Can we explore possible causes and solutions?
For Betties who have some STI concerns:
“I’ve recently had a sexual encounter that I’m concerned might have put me at risk for an STI. What steps should I take for testing and prevention?”
For Betties who simply want to integrate their sexual health into their checkups:
“I know I’m here to get a checkup but can we talk about my sexual health for a few minutes? I have some questions.”
If none of these convo starters feel doable with your current provider, you may need to consider backing up to find a provider who will.
Initiating a conversation about your sexual health might feel uncomfortable at first, but remember, asking questions is a form of advocating for your health, Betties!
Your sexual health is just as important as any other aspect of your well-being. Regular discussions with your HCP can help detect and prevent potential issues before they become major concerns. By speaking openly and honestly, you empower yourself to make informed decisions and take control of your sexual and reproductive health.