Room for Improvement in Ob-Gyn Communication About Sex

Most ask patients about sexual activities; few discuss orientation, satisfaction, or pleasure

FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- About two-thirds of obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob-Gyns) ask patients about their sexual activities, but other aspects of sexuality, including satisfaction with sex and sexual identity, are not routinely discussed, according to a study published online March 22 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Janelle N. Sobecki, from the University of Chicago, and colleagues surveyed 1,154 practicing U.S. Ob-Gyns (response rate, 65.6 percent) regarding their communication practices with patients about sex. The survey asked whether Ob-Gyns discussed each of five outcomes: sexual activities, sexual orientation, sexual satisfaction, pleasure with sexual activity, and sexual problems or dysfunction. The participants also were asked whether they ever expressed disapproval of or disagreement with sexual practices of their patients.

The investigators found that 63 and 40 percent of Ob-Gyns reported routinely assessing patients' sexual activities and sexual problems, respectively. Fewer Ob-Gyns asked about sexual orientation/identity and satisfaction or pleasure with sexual activities (27.7, 28.5, and 13.8 percent, respectively). One-quarter of Ob-Gyns reported expressing disapproval of sexual practices. For each of the five outcomes investigated, Ob-Gyns who mainly practiced gynecology were significantly more likely than other Ob-Gyns to routinely communicate with their patients.

"Our findings suggest that there are areas for improvement in Ob-Gyn practices with respect to communication with patients about the comprehensive range of sexual matters that relate to women's health," the authors write. "Improvement will likely depend on graduate and continuing physician education, patient demand, availability of effective treatments for female sexual concerns, and an environment of care that facilitates the patient-physician relationship."

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