How often does your doctor ask about your sexual life? Unfortunately, the answer may be: not often enough.

Leaving the subject off the check-up checklist could mean missing an important link to overall wellness. Results of a comprehensive national survey of U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists regarding communication with patients about sex have found that too often doctors aren't having "the talk" with their patients. And when the topic of sex does find its way into a doctor's office or exam room, chances are the discussion only skims the surface.

The report, "What We Don't Talk about When We Don't Talk about Sex," uncovers the shortfalls in doctor-patient communication around sexual matters and examines the barriers that may be limiting the range of dialogue in a typical evaluation of a woman's general health. The study is being published today in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The survey, conducted by a team of University of Chicago researchers, found that while nearly two-thirds of OB-GYNs routinely inquire about patients' sexual activity, other aspects of female sexuality are not routinely addressed. Only 40 percent of those surveyed routinely ask questions to assess for sexual problems or dysfunction. Far fewer, 29 percent, routinely ask patients about satisfaction with their sexual lives and 28 percent routinely confirm a patient's sexual orientation. Given the well-established link between a sexual function and overall health, the study's authors say their findings point to a clear need for stronger guidelines for doctors on conducting a thorough sexual history.

There is strong evidence of a high prevalence of sexual function concerns among women. Recent studies estimate that roughly a third of young and middle-age women and about half of older women experience some sort of sexual problem such as low desire, pain during intercourse or lack of pleasure.

Read more at the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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