For Patients

Resources For Conversations About Sexual Health With Clinicians

Sexual health is an important component of overall health and well-being. All women deserve a positive sexual health experience and to have their sexual health concerns addressed. But far too often women suffer in silence – it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Patient/Partner Resource aims to empower women to have conversations about sexual health with clinicians by connecting women with evidence-based information and tools to help get these sometimes-uncomfortable conversations started. Women can have a pleasurable sex life if sexual health needs are addressed. We hope this resource will help women have the information and tools you need to raise your sexual health concerns with healthcare professionals who can help.

Self-Assessment Tools

There are several different self-assessment tools available that can help you better understand the symptoms you or your partner may be experiencing. Some look specifically at different sexual health conditions, while others explore sexual function more broadly.

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There are several different self-assessment tools available that can help you better understand the symptoms you or your partner may be experiencing. Some look specifically at different sexual health conditions, while others explore sexual function more broadly.

  • The Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist for Women (BSSC-W) consists of four simple questions and is suitable for use in primary care settings. It addresses the patient’s level of satisfaction with sexual function (the major outcome measure in sexual health) and is available here: ACOG Guideline on Sexual Dysfunction in Women (Hatzichristou D, Rosen RC, Derogatis LR, Low WY, Meuleman EJH, Sadovsky R, and Symonds T. Recommendations for the clinical evaluation of men and women with sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med 2010;7:337–348.)
  • The Decreased Sexual Desire Screener (DSDS) is a simple, 5-question, validated screening tool designed to help you assess sexual problems and diagnose generalized, acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). The first 4 YES/NO questions address the diagnostic criteria for low sexual desire and associated distress. The fifth question (patient circles all factors that may apply) helps rule out other potential medical conditions and other psychiatric problems. Note: circling any part of number 5 does not preclude HSDD and instead warrants further discussion. (Clayton AH, et al. J Sex Med. 2009;6:730-738)
    1. i. The DSDS includes the following questions:
      1. 1. In the past, was your level of sexual desire or interest good & satisfying to you?
      2. 2. Has there been a decrease in your level of sexual desire or interest?
      3. 3. Are you bothered by the decreased level of sexual desire or interest?
      4. 4. Would you like your level of sexual desire or interest to increase?
      5. 5. What factors do you feel may be contributing to your current decrease in sexual desire or interest?
        1. a. An operation, depression, injuries, or other medical condition
        2. b. Medications, drugs, or alcohol you are currently taking
        3. c. Pregnancy, recent childbirth, menopausal symptoms
        4. d. Other sexual issues you may be having (pain, decreased arousal or orgasm)
        5. e. Your partner’s sexual problems
        6. f. Dissatisfaction with your relationship or partner
        7. g. Stress or fatigue
    2. ii. Download the DSDS here:
      Decreased Sexual Desire Screener (DSDS)

How to Raise Your Concerns

When you or your partner are experiencing sexual health challenges, it’s not always easy to talk about them with a healthcare professional. Often people feel embarrassed or are scared of being dismissed. If you or your partner is experiencing sexual health concerns, please know that your concerns are valid and deserve to be heard. The conversation starters below can make raising the subject of sex easier by providing a starting point for you or your partner during clinical visits.

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When you or your partner are experiencing sexual health challenges, it’s not always easy to talk about them with a healthcare professional. Often people feel embarrassed or are scared of being dismissed. If you or your partner is experiencing sexual health concerns, please know that your concerns are valid and deserve to be heard. The conversation starters below can make raising the subject of sex easier by providing a starting point for you or your partner during clinical visits.

  • Talking to A Provider about FSD: If you think you may be experiencing female sexual dysfunction (FSD), the American Sexual Health Association recommends picking one or two of these questions to get the conversation with your healthcare provider started:
    • Why is sex becoming so painful now?
    • Is a low libido normal for my age?
    • Why don’t I have interest in sex anymore?
    • Will my level of desire return to what it was?
    • Are there lifestyle changes I can make?
    • What books or reading materials would you recommend?
    • Why is it so hard to have an orgasm?
    • I’ve never had an orgasm; does it mean I never will?
  • Take charge of your sexual health: The National Coalition of Sexual Health suggests using these questions to ask about sexual function:
    • I no longer find sex (or masturbation) pleasurable. Why?
    • My sex drive is lower than normal. What’s the deal?
    • Having sex hurts. What’s the problem?
    • I’m being treated for another illness or disease, and I’m wondering how that will affect my sex life?
    • I’m having trouble reaching climax. What’s going on?

Understanding Sexual Health Conditions

Below are links to expert interviews, articles, and infographics that help explain female anatomy and common sexual health concerns. We’ve also included sexual health terminology and definitions to help you understand common sexual health challenges.

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Below are links to expert interviews, articles, and infographics that help explain female anatomy and common sexual health concerns. We’ve also included sexual health terminology and definitions to help you understand common sexual health challenges.

Menopause and Sexual Health

If you are experiencing menopause, your sexual health needs are likely changing. The resources below address the specific needs and concerns of women in this life stage.

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If you are experiencing menopause, your sexual health needs are likely changing. The resources below address the specific needs and concerns of women in this life stage.

Get In Touch

Please contact us for more information about the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health.