Talking about Sex with your Doctor

By Danya

We all know that point of the doctor's appointment when they ask your parent to step out and you know you’re about to get asked some very personal questions. I used to really dread this part of my check-ups. As if sitting in a cold hospital room in a half open robe isn’t uncomfortable enough, having a doctor ask me the most intimate details of my life felt unbearable. 

What I started to realize though, is that doctors are professionals- their jobs are to help us stay healthy, not to judge us. So, why are we fighting that? If you’re not comfortable asking your parents some of your more intimate questions, try talking to your doctors. They’re full of information and plus providers in California are required by law to ask for your consent before releasing any of your health information to a family member- no matter your age.

Starting at the age of thirteen my doctor started asking my mom to step out of the room and would ask me questions along the lines of “Do you drink? Do you smoke? Are you having sex?” Seems pretty simple but every time my stomach would be in knots for days leading up to the checkup … especially the year that I finally started answering “yes.”

When the time came for me to answer “yes” to the question “are you sexually active,” I was prepared for the worst- judgmental glances, an awkward confrontation with my parents and a life of shame. I guess you could say I was overreacting, because this was so not the case. When I finally mustered the courage to peep out a “yes,” my doctor barely looked up. Instead she simply moved down the line of relevant follow-up questions: “Have you thought about birth control?” “Are you using condoms,” etc. She didn’t care that I was having sex- why would she? She just wanted to make sure I was being safe about it!  

That check up actually ended up being super informative. It was an opportunity for me to ask her about my different birth control options- and being a health professional she was able to give me answers that targeted my specific health needs. I brought up the option of an oral birth control pill I was interested in and she warned me about her concerns of me taking a high hormone dosage, based on my personal medical past. We were able to find a low-estrogen birth control that worked for me!

When I came to college I felt like the hormones in the birth control pill were negatively effecting me though, so I sought out a health professional at my University’s campus who helped me find a non-hormonal method. I ended up choosing the copper IUD which I've been way happier with.

As a college student, I feel more comfortable talking about my contraceptive use and sexual health with my parents, but I know not everyone does. Thanks to the new Confidential Health Information Act though, if you’re still on your parents health plan you can make sure all of your health information stays private by completing a simple form called a Confidential Communications Request. This form tells your insurance plan to send all sensitive health care information directly to you, rather than to your parents. This way whatever happens between you and your doctor, can stay between you and your doctor. Find out more about the Confidential Health Information Act here.

When it comes down to it, talking about sex can be awkward- but it doesn’t need to be. Doctors are trained to help us stay healthy and we should let them do their job!