Sexuality is a significant aspect of all individuals' lives. Physicians and health care professionals, who provide longitudinal care to individuals and families, have both an opportunity and a responsibility to provide appropriate counselling, anticipatory guidance and education for their patients regarding sexual concerns occurring throughout the life cycle.
Sexual issues are frequently ignored in practice, for a variety of reasons. Physicians must be aware that sexual behavior, in addition to procreation, serves many other functions related to physiological and psychological development. Sexuality provides individuals with a way to express their feelings, demonstrate caring, and communicate and develop intimacy with another person. As such, sexual expression becomes a source of pleasure and fulfillment. For couples, it is a powerful form of communication.
Physicians have the responsibility to address the sexual concerns of their patients. Many women regard their physicians as experts in the area of human sexuality. There are many medical and developmental concerns that will impact on sexual behavior, and questions may concern psychosexual development, contraception, STD counselling and the impact of various illnesses, such as depression, substance abuse, physical disability, and diabetes, on sexuality. These provide a springboard for physician inquiry into the sexual health of their patients. Many illnesses impact on sexual behavior and if not discussed, will be ignored.
While most practitioners have had some training in taking sexual histories during medical school, many physicians are reluctant to pursue this issue with their patients.