In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about which health care professionals can help improve your sex life.
Q: What holistic, mental, and physical health care professionals can help with improving my sex life and ability to orgasm?
While sexual health is undoubtedly part of general health, unfortunately, not many people are encouraged to seek out health care professionals. And, even more unfortunately, most health care providers aren’t trained in sexual health. (Fun fact: My sex educator training was 60 hours. Doctors get, on average, between three and 10 hours.) So hats off to you for actively seeking out professionals who can help with your sex life.
Three specialists can really help you improve your sexual satisfaction: a gynecologist, a pelvic health specialist, and a sex therapist or coach.
A gynecologist can help you figure out if you have any health issues— like a sexually transmitted infection, bacterial infection, urinary tract infection, endometriosis, or even an ovarian cyst, for example — that could be interfering with your enjoyment of sex. Dr. Arumala, OB/GYN and Ph.D. Feminine Health Advisor, recommends seeking out a gynecologist who specifically advertises that they help with sexual dysfunction because they’ll be “an engaged provider who most likely has extensive additional training and/or experience.”
Dr. Arumala also strongly recommends being open with your gynecologist because they can help you determine where the root cause of your issues may be — and refer to a specialist to help solve those issues.
If your issues seem to be physical, your gynecologist might recommend a pelvic health specialist, a health care professional who helps you with the muscles in your pelvic floor. Rachel Gelman, PT, DPT, tells Bustle that “most people have overactive or stiff pelvic floor muscles and need to learn how to relax these muscles.”
“The pelvic floor muscles play a role in sexual function,” Gelman says. “These muscles contract and relax during orgasm, so making sure these muscles have an optimal range of motion and that a person has good control over these muscles is important for an orgasm to happen. People often focus on contracting and strengthening and don't think about relaxing. “
Gelman also says that people with pelvic floor dysfunction sometimes experience clitoral pain when orgasming because pelvic floor muscles cover the internal clitoris. Gelman says that working the tension out of those muscle groups can lead to reduced pain, better sex, and better orgasms.
Finally, you might want to consider reaching out to a sex therapist. Dr. Holly Richmond, Ph.D., tells Bustle that sex therapists help bridge any disconnections a person might have between their minds and bodies.
“All sex therapists are trained as licensed psychotherapists, so there is often a deep dive into the past to unearth any sexual stumbling blocks,” Dr. Richmond says. “Then, in the present, the sex therapist will offer practical steps to address the problem. If someone is having problems orgasming, it would mean looking into when and how this is presents (it’s always been this way, it’s recently started, it only happens alone, only with partners, etc.) in conjunction with hands-on homework, quite literally.”
In other words, the doctor will help figure out the root of the problem and then give you steps to solve it. Dr. Richmond recommends checking out the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) for a licensed sex therapist near you.
Our sexual selves are really our whole selves: physical, mental, and — for some — spiritual. So when you’re faced with an issue in your sex life, it’s worth it to figure out which is affecting you most. Start with a gynecologist, and then branch out from there. And, remember, no matter how frustrating it might get — there is a solution out there.
Dr. Arumala, OB/GYN and pH-D Feminine Health Advisor
Rachel Gelman, PT, DPT
Dr. Holly Richmond, Ph.D.