We tend to think of doctors as the people who treat us when we’re sick. But doctors can do a lot to keep us healthy too—and by healthy, yes, I also mean sexually healthy. I know that talking to your doc about sex may not feel like the most comfortable thing in the world, but your doctor is a great resource (arguably the best) for all things S-E-X and birth control. To help prep for the chat, I sat down with the most straight shooting gyno there is, Dr. Katharine O'Connell White, the Director of the Family Planning Fellowship at Boston University. Here’s what you should know:
1. Know Your Confidentiality is Protected.
Whether it’s your doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a gynecologist, every provider you encounter in a medical setting is required to keep what you discuss confidential. “There are some exceptions,” Says Dr. Kate “If someone reveals they are being abused and they are under 18, or are seriously thinking about suicide, then we have to tell someone. But that is the level of seriousness we are talking about here. You should be able to talk to a doctor about all things sex and birth control without your parents getting a phone call.”
2. Know When It Isn’t.
Although your doctor isn’t going to be calling your parents to report on your sexual behavior, if you use your parents’ insurance you should be aware that the bill the insurance sends to your house will show the appointment you had and the general nature of that appointment (though it doesn’t dish anything in detail). “If you prefer more privacy,” Says Dr. Kate, “You can make an appointment for an annual exam or check up, and ask all your sex questions then. That way, the bill that is sent home will just say ‘annual check up.’” And if you’re concerned about this, be sure to share your worries with your doctor, who may be able to take extra steps to maintain your privacy.
3. You Should Like Your Doc.
If you’re going to be sharing the most intimate details of your sex life with someone, you want to have a good relationship with them. “See what it’s like to talk to your provider, and if this is someone you would feel comfortable sharing your most intimate fears and feelings with,” Says Dr. Kate. “If you feel like the provider is judging you, making assumptions about you because of your gender, or is doing something to make you feel uncomfortable, find a different doctor.”
4. Be honest.
Your doctor isn’t there to judge you, he or she is there to keep you healthy, and that job is the easiest when he or she knows as many details as possible about your health. “It’s important to be completely honest about your body, your sexual history, and the types of relationships you’ve been in,” Says Dr. Kate. “Don’t be afraid to tell your provider about anything that is worrying you or anything you have questions about.” It may be helpful to come to the appointment with a list of your questions and concerns so that you don’t forget anything.
5. Talk About Sex.
It can be hard to get straight up accurate information about sex. Think of your doc as a one-stop shop for all your questions—health related or not. “Ask even the questions you think are silly,” Says Dr. Kate. “Doctors are excellent at dispelling myths about what sex is really like, giving you the truth about pregnancy, and even helping make your first time more comfortable. And if you’re not ready for sex, a good health care provider should be able to talk to you about ways to be intimate with someone that don’t include intercourse.” Want to know what sex is really like? Your most straight up answer could come from your health care provider (assuming they’re a good one and someone you trust).
Want even more prep for a convo? The National Coalition for Sexual Health has created a guide with some great sexual health questions you might want to ask your doc. And we've got 5 tips for talking to your doctor about birth control.