How we're still too embarrassed to discuss sex with a doctor (but are our physicians too prudish to talk about it too)
22:41 GMT, 23 March 2012
We assume that the doctor's office is the one place outside of friendship and family circles where women are encouraged, and allowed, to talk candidly about sex without giggling, blushing or being judged.
However a survey of obstetrician-gynecologists across the United States revealed there is a severe lack of discourse about sexual problems and sexuality in general between physicians and their female patients.
This may be because both the doctors and their patients are reluctant to be the first to raise the subject.
Prude physicians: A survey of obstetrician-gynecologists in the U.S. reveals sexual problems and sexuality are not discussed enough with patients
Lead study author Dr Stacy Tessler
Lindau believes patients often worry about bringing up sexual
difficulties because of fear the physician will be embarrassed, dismiss
their concerns or worse, judge them.
On the flip side, like patients, physicians worry that broaching the topic could offend or embarrass the patient.
With many women experiencing sexual problems from trouble reaching orgasm to lack of sexual desire, according to a survey of 587 patients aged 18 to 95 at a New Jersey urology clinic, this leaves many women suffering in silence.
But talking openly about sex appears to be what female patients need, with past research suggesting general adult sexual education is severely lacking in America.
Michael Reece, a professor of health at Indiana University told LiveScience last year that most American adults 'don't have the basic education about their bodies, the bodies of their sexual partners, relationships or sexual behaviors.'
He continued: 'We really have this deficit, I would say, across the country.'
Out of the 1,150 physicians who took part in the survey, 63 per cent indicated they routinely assessed patients' sexual activities.
However only 40 per cent said they routinely asked about sexual problems, 28.5 per cent questioned patients about sexual satisfaction, 27.7 per cent asked about sexual orientation or sexual identity, and 13.8 per cent queried their patient's sexual pleasure.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, 25 per cent of the doctors said they have expressed disapproval of patients' sexual practices.
Primarily, doctors who graduated from foreign medical institutions or ones who considered religion the most important part of their lives were part of this 25 per cent.
Those physicians who indicated a Roman Catholic religious affiliation were significantly less likely than others in the survey to ask patients about sexual activity.
With over two-thirds of those surveyed omitting to discuss sexual orientation, it was doctors 60 years or older who were the least likely to investigate a patient's sexual
orientation or sexual identity.
Janelle Sobecki, a study researcher and second-year medical student at Wayne State University explained to LiveScience that the problem may stem from medical teaching.
She said: 'One explanation for the findings may be a deficit in physician training about diagnosis and treatment of female sexual problems.'
With the current open discourse regarding women's reproduction rights in the United States taking main precedence in the lead up to the 2012 general elections, there is hope that physicians may feel more comfortable in asking their female patients the hard questions.
However Mr Lindau concluded it may be up to the patients to open up and start the discourse.
'If you have a doctor you trust who has not brought this topic up, give it a try.
'Waiting for the doctor to start the conversation may never happen. Communication is key.'