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Is My Primary Care Provider Enough When It Comes To My Sexual Health?

Can you think back to your first experience seeing a gynecologist, your urologist, or primary care provider for sexual health services? Wasn’t it one of the most intriguing, yet sort of embarrassing and scary moments of your young life? Discussing those sensitive health topics wasn’t overly exciting, especially having to show a stranger your private parts! Most of us didn’t want to get undressed in front of our parents, let alone a perfect stranger with a freakishly long cotton swab.

Gynecologists are women’s health specialists. Urologists specialize in men’s reproductive health, women’s pelvic disorders and diseases of the urinary system. Primary care providers can care for you from head-to-toe, but refer out to specialists if need be. But which of these specialists are sexual health experts? Enter BeyondMed!

Your gynecologists, urologists and primary care specialists ask questions and look for issues in the areas they are familiar with. When you believe that you are tested for “everything,” it could mean everything that your gynecologist or urologist knew to test for, or thought was necessary. This means that they could miss a lot because their specialty can be limiting. It can also be tricky navigating a conversation with your doctor if he or she does not offer the service or treatment that you are seeking. For instance, it can definitely be uncomfortable asking your gynecologist or urologist to swab your throat or rectum for STDs when that type of test is not in their repertoire.

“Oh, never mind I forgot what I was going to ask.”

In my clinical rotations as an NP student, I learned it was not a common practice to screen several body parts for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), until I volunteered at a health department where we screened and treated STDs and infections. The NP asked vastly different questions of her patients than other providers I’ve observed in my nursing career. She asked questions like, “have you been sexually active with anyone who uses IV drugs,” and “have you been sexually active with a man that has sex with men?” My gynecologist NEVER asked any questions like those. Did yours? The icing on the cake for me, was when she TOLD her PATIENT that her throat should be SWABBED! I was shocked! She told me that if patients participate in oral sex, their throat can get infected with an STD! I was in such disbelief by the lack of consistency in practice I’d witnessed in observing other providers.

Jump to my 1st year as a virtual provider, my 3rd year as a practitioner, sexual health, PrEP, and urology specialist, and my 11th year as a nurse - my business partner and I decided to center our online virtual health practice around your sexual pleasure, dysfunctions, upkeep, unplanned pregnancies, and health. The limited ability of non-sexual health specialists, and the lack of knowledge in the community to assess and test for specific sexual health needs, drove the desire for my business partner and I to overeducate our patients about the importance of having regular sexual health check-ups with a thorough provider. It is important that your provider is comfortable asking the uncomfortable questions and discussing sensitive health topics. It is even more important that your provider understands what your risk factors mean, can screen/test you appropriately, can explain your prognosis in easy-to-understand terms, and has a clear plan of action. Imagine having an STD in your throat for months and not knowing it. Would that make you upset after having visited your primary care provider, urologist or gynecologist and receiving a clean bill of health? Has your provider consistently swabbed all orifices you used for sexual activity? Did you feel comfortable answering all your provider’s questions? Did you hold things back? All these things are important when choosing your provider and seeking care. You deserve a provider who is comfortable and experienced in sexual health - someone you feel is a relatable expert.

Oh! One more thing! The Beyond|Med team values being thorough in reviewing your health history and screenings at your virtual sexual health consultation. Try not to feel intimidated, and we will do our best to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Besides, most of us are doing it! As your sexual health experts, we just need to know how, so we can make sure you are safe and protecting others while doing it. :-)

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