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Opinions and practices among providers regarding sexual function:Do we ask the questions?

Primary Care Update for OB/GYNS
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s1068-607x(02)00121-x
  • Fifth Prize Manuscript
  • Ecology
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Abstract There is a paucity of current literature exploring provider attitudes toward discussing sexual function in routine gynecological care. Our objective in this study was to evaluate provider attitudes about the importance of taking a sexual history, and perceived barriers to doing so. Additionally, we evaluated whether patients consider a sexual function history important to their care. Residents, attending physicians, and midwives at the University of New Mexico completed anonymous questionnaires, including demographic data as well as questions regarding attitudes and practices toward taking a sexual history. Patients presenting for routine gynecological care were asked what their expectations are of their provider in taking a sexual history. Despite demographic differences, all providers reported that time limitations and language barriers were the main reasons why they don’t ask patients about their sexual function. The majority of providers reported that they seldom know where to refer patients with sexual dysfunction. All providers underestimated the percentage of women having sexual dysfunction compared with the literature ( P < .001). Both patients and providers agreed that asking questions about patient’s sex lives was important to patient care ( P = .61). Patients felt that it was important for providers to ask specific detailed questions about their sexual function. We concluded that lack of time and language barriers were the two commonly cited reasons for the inability of providers to complete a sexual history. Additionally, all providers had inadequate education about where to refer patients with sexual dysfunction. Strategies to improve providers’ ability to elicit and manage sexual dysfunction might include education regarding concise but validated sexual history interview techniques, simple treatment paradigms, and education regarding referral.

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