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Finding the Right Sex Health Provider

Jan 20, 2011

Have you resolved to improve your sexual health in 2011?  If so, you may be wondering where to start.  What types of healthcare providers treat sexual health issues?

The answer depends on the kind of problems you’re having and what’s causing them.  Sexual problems can stem from physical factors, like hormones, and psychological factors, such as depression or anxiety.  Often, there are a combination of physical and psychological factors at work.

To help you on your path to better sexual health, here’s a list of the most common types of sexual healthcare providers.

Primary Care Physicians.  Even if your regular doctor doesn’t specialize in sexual medicine, he or she can be a good starting point.  Your primary care physician can give you a complete physical and run tests to address any physical causes.  He or she can also answer preliminary questions, help you determine your options, and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.  Many specialists work in conjunction with primary care physicians.

Urologists.  While urologists treat urinary tract issues for both men and women, they are also specialists in the male reproductive organs:  penis, testes, scrotum, prostate gland, and ejaculatory ducts.  Urologists can help with issues like erectile dysfunction (ED), an enlarged prostate gland (BPH), and Peyronie’s disease.  They also help men with ejaculatory problems, such as premature ejaculation (PE), retrograde ejaculation, and anejaculation.

Gynecologists.  Gynecologists are specialists in women’s reproductive organs:  ovaries, uterus, cervix, and vagina.  They perform pelvic exams and Pap smears that screen for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.  They can also help women with hormonal changes that affect sexual health, such as menopause.  Some gynecologists also deliver babies; these physicians are called obstetrician/gynecologists or OB/GYNs.

Mental Health Professionals.  Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors address the psychological issues that cause sexual problems.  For example, a mental health professional might help you work through difficulties in your relationship with your partner or help you cope with past sexual trauma or abuse.  In some cases, you might choose to have couples therapy with your partner.

Sex Therapists.  Sex therapists are also mental health professionals, but they focus more on the direct sexual issues than the underlying psychological causes.  They can help you better understand the physiological aspects of sex.  They can also teach you ways to effectively communicate your wants or needs to your partner.  Sex therapists might recommend strategies that you and your partner can try in the bedroom, too. 

Physical Therapists.  For some women, sexual issues, like pain during intercourse, are caused by problems with the pelvic floor muscles.  Physical therapists can teach women how to strengthen or relax those muscles to improve sexual function.

To help locate a sex health provider near you, use our Find a Provider tool.