Improving Women’s Sexual Health Outcomes
Sexual health is an integral part of overall health and wellbeing, and can help improve social and emotional health.
But far too often women’s sexual health concerns are not addressed, leaving women to suffer in silence. Making sure women of all ages and backgrounds have their concerns heard without feeling judged or ashamed is critical to improving their health and quality of life.
Barriers to Having an Open Conversation
A culture of discomfort around women’s sexual health creates barriers to having an open conversation and better care for women’s sexual health concerns. This touches more than conversations with friends or with partners – discomfort around sexual health affects the way sexual health is addressed in the clinical setting.
Both women and their clinicians may be uncomfortable starting conversations about important sexual health concerns, leaving many women without adequate care for the symptoms they have.
With little time during healthcare visits and often little clinician training on how to address sexual health with patients, conversations about sexual health concerns often fall below other health issues and are cut short even if they do happen.
Breaking Through Barriers to Promote Conversations About Sexual Health
Helping women advocate for their sexual health during clinical visits is an important step toward making sure their concerns are heard and addressed. Giving clinicians support to ask about and address their patients’ sexual health concerns is also important.
It’s critical to ensure clinicians can comfortably talk about a patient’s sexual health concerns in a way that helps people – who may be apprehensive or may not know how to ask about the sexual health issues they are experiencing – open up, especially women.
Breaking down barriers that hinder or prevent conversations about women’s sexual health requires support and education for both patients and the clinicians who care for them.
Did You Know?
Only 40% of clinicians routinely ask questions to assess sexual problems or dysfunction – according to a 2012 national survey of U.S. OB-GYNs shared by the American Sexual Health Association
In one survey of more than 3,200 women, just over 1/3 of women with any distressing sexual problems had sought formal care. About 80% of the time, it was the woman, rather than the clinician, who started the discussion about the problem.
Discussing women’s sexuality and sexual health is often considered taboo, making women and healthcare professionals unsure how to talk about it.
Healthcare professionals receive limited formal training in female sexual health and have limited time during visits to address many health needs, so they may be less likely to ask about concerns they don’t feel quipped to address quickly.
Women frequently have misconceptions about sexual health symptoms and aren’t aware that these sexual symptoms may be a medical condition with available treatments options, meaning they don’t even consider asking their healthcare professional about what they’re experiencing.
With the right information and tools to spark conversation, women and healthcare professionals can work together to make sure women’s sexual health concerns are adequately addressed so their overall health and well-being can improve. This discussion resource is organized by audience and compiles evidence-based, validated sexual health information and communications tools in one place to help facilitate open, frank conversations between women and their healthcare providers about sexual health.
Who We Are
The Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health
The Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health (AAWH) seeks to advance women’s sexual healthcare by instituting change that promotes a culture of openness and improves outcomes for women’s sexual health.
Our mission is to engage women to advocate for their sexual health and improve clinical interaction by elevating awareness and advancing healthcare professional education and training.
We collaborate on initiatives that work to engage women to advocate for their sexual health and improve clinical interaction – or discussion between the patient and their clinician – by elevating awareness and advancing health professional education and training.
Female Sexual Health: Barriers to Optimal Outcomes and a Roadmap for Improved Patient–Clinician Communications
Leading healthcare experts associated with AAWH produced a consensus paper around patient and clinician communication barriers.
Our membership includes leading women’s health and sexual health professional and patient organizations who are volunteering their time and expertise to help advance women’s sexual health. AAWH is led by a steering committee, chaired by leaders from organizations that represent both the consumer and clinician perspectives.