Shifren JL, Johannes CB, Monz BU, Russo PA, Bennett L, Rosen R. Help-seeking behavior of women with self-reported distressing sexual problems. J Womens Health. 2009 Apr 1;18(4):461-8.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to describe the healthcare and information-seeking behavior of women with self-reported sexual problems and accompanying sexually related personal distress identified from a large, population-based U.S. survey.

METHODS: Women (n = 3,239) aged > or =18 years with self-reported sexual problems of desire, arousal, and/or orgasm accompanied by sexually related personal distress were identified from a cross-sectional mailed survey of 50,002 U.S. households sampled from a national research panel. Healthcare and information-seeking behavior was examined as four ordered categories: sought formal medical advice, sought informal advice, sought information from anonymous sources, and did not seek help or information. Correlates of help seeking for each type of distressing sexual problem were modeled with multivariable proportional odds regression.

RESULTS: Just over a third of women with any distressing sexual problems had sought formal care, most often from a gynecologist or primary care physician; about 80% of the time, the woman, rather than the physician, initiated the conversation. Only 6% of women who sought medical advice scheduled a visit specifically for a sexual problem. Factors related to help seeking were having a current partner and interacting with the healthcare system. Barriers were poor self-perceived health and embarrassment about discussing sexual topics with a physician.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest inadequacies in the U.S. medical care system in addressing sexual problems in women. Gynecologists and primary care physicians, by including discussions about sexual health during routine visits, can increase the likelihood that adequate care can be offered.

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