Here are the results...
We all know that talking about sexual health can be a bit awkward. But it's important to remember that patients are sexual beings too! GP's play a vital role in ensuring their patients' sexual health and wellbeing, and part of that is being able to talk about sexual function openly and comfortably.
On June 11th 2022, Melissa was invited to be a guest speaker for a Perth Urology Clinic’s Masterclass - the topic was “Why patients are embarrassed to ask their GP about sex”.
To help with this, we sent out a survey asking our audience various questions on the subject. We had an overwhelming response, with over a quarter of you taking the time to fill it out (we really appreciate this)!
First up, we asked "Has your GP ever asked you how your sexual function is?". Most respondents answered NO (77%), with only a small minority (23%) saying YES.
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We then asked, "If your GP has never asked you about your sexual function, would you like them to?". The results were a staggering yes, with 79% of respondents saying they would feel more comfortable discussing their sexual function with their GP if they were asked about it directly.
So, it's clear that patients want to talk about sexual function with their GP, but how can GP's broach the subject? We asked our respondents for their thoughts on this, and here are some of the most popular suggestions:
- GP to simply say “how is your sexual function? It is normal for things to change with time, illness, medication, and we can assist if you have noticed anything”
- GP to ask the patient during the consult “Is there anything else you would like to discuss?”
- For the GP to provide information on any possible side effects of treatments, medications, and illnesses.
We also asked you "When you have been prescribed medication (antidepressants, pain relief, blood pressure medication, Epilepsy medication, medication for urinary or prostate issues) in the past has your GP/Dr ever mentioned the potential sexual side effects?" Most respondents answered NO (72%), with only a small minority (28%) saying YES. These results show that many GP's could do a better job of informing their patients about the potential sexual side effects of medication. This is especially important for medications that are commonly prescribed, such as antidepressants and pain relief medication. As well as cardio drugs, blood pressure medication, and drugs for urinary or prostate issues.
We followed this question with "If your GP has never mentioned the potential sexual side effects of your medication, would you like them to?". As you can imagine we got a resounding yes!
Armed with all your responses, here are a few simple things that Melissa suggested to GPs when approaching patients regarding sexual function:
- Talk about it early and often: Sexual function should be discussed regularly, not just when there's a problem.
- Be open and honest: Be comfortable talking about sex and be prepared to refer patients to someone who can help them if they don’t have the knowledge or time.
- Don't make assumptions: Each patient is different, so don't assume that they know everything about sexual function or that they don't have any questions.
- Be sensitive: Remember that some patients may be embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about sex. Be respectful and understanding of their feelings.
It is important that patient/consumers also understand that GPs need to know a lot about a broad range of subjects so don’t expect them to have all the answers. They are also very time poor so be happy and satisfied if your GP raises the issue and then gives you some where to get extra assistance if they don’t know the answer.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any other suggestions for GP's when it comes to discussing sexual function with their patients? Let us know in the comments!