We know that sex and masturbation are good for you, yet many healthcare professionals struggle to talk about this subject with their patients, some medicalise it because they cannot think beyond their training or tell them it’s normal.
However there are some amazing medical professionals who recognise the importance of sexual intimacy and pleasure and how it can improve the general health of their patients.
Dr Stephanie deGiorgio, a GP based in Kent, kindly gave this interview to discuss how she is improving the sex lives of her patients
Do you talk to your patients about sexual issues?
I like talking about sex with my patients. They come to see me quite frequently with sexual issues, for me to work out if there is a medical problem causing the symptoms and to see if they can be helped.
What sexual problems do some of your patients have?
I tend to see mostly women in my surgeries and the problems can include painful penetrative sex, inability to orgasm and lack of sexual desire all of which have a multitude of causes.
The inadequacies of a 10 minute appointment don’t make long conversations possible but what I hope to be able to do, alongside the medical stuff, is normalise the conversation around sex for the person seeing me. The embarrassment factor often stops people asking for help and it is really important that I, as their doctor, am comfortable discussing these things.
What do you recommend?
One area that I sometimes end up talking about with the person seeing me is the use of sex toys. Sometimes they bring the subject up and sometimes I do. You can imagine though, I have to judge this one carefully and I don’t start the appointment with “have you ever thought about using a vibrator…?” not everyone wants to discuss it and it would make for an interesting complaint letter. Sometimes this is met with an embarrassed giggle or a look of surprise (and occasionally ends there) but often we end up having a really useful conversation.
Why do you recommend sex toys?
Women who are experiencing painful sex or struggling with lack of sex drive (there are many reasons for both) often end up avoiding physical contact and finding ways for them to enjoy the feelings of sexual stimulation again is important. Some may require psychosexual therapy, others need some guidance on what may be useful to them. Different sex toys can help them to re-learn, in a controlled way, what feels good and just how good it can feel.
Do some patients prefer to use medical dilators?
For women who have problems with vaginal penetration, it is possible to prescribe a vaginal dilator kit on the NHS. These can work for some people, but they can seem quite clinical and so I will often direct women to either an online retailer or a shop to search out the appropriate sized vibrator.
Do you recommend different types of sex toys?
For some women who don’t want or aren’t ready for vaginal penetration, then a wide range of clitoral vibrators are available which can be used to re-learn how to feel pleasure. They can also be used on other parts of the body to get used to pleasurable physical stimulation before heading anywhere near the clitoris and can be used alone or with a partner.
You’re happy talking about sex but many GPs struggle with the conversation
The key for me when discussing these things with patients is that I have to know what I am talking about and so I have made sure I do and can talk about it all confidently and with no awkwardness. This frees the patient up to do speak openly.
Not all GPs are able to or want to do this, which is absolutely fine (I don’t like dealing with eyeballs and feet much) so it is probably worth people discussing with the receptionist which GP would be best to talk to about a sexual problem. Despite their reputation, they are a wise bunch and will know which doctor someone should see.
What feedback do you get from your patients?
The professional satisfaction that comes from someone coming back to tell me how much fun they are having is immense. Our sex lives can be so important to us and having a light-hearted but important discussion about something like sex toys in my GP surgery can make a massive difference to my patients. Long may the times continue for me to be able to do this.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Dr deGiorgio. It is so refreshing to hear about her work and her interest in helping her patients enjoy good sexual intimacy and pleasure. At Jo Divine I work with amazing healthcare professionals such as womens health physiotherapists, clinical nurse specialists and gynaecologists who discuss sexual issues with their patients and who recommend our sex toys and give out our health brochure in their clinics.
The medical profession is slowly taking note that sex is important to many people and enjoying a good sex life can improve your general physical and mental well-being and Dr deGiorgio is leading the way with her work.