A man and woman stare at the sunset together at the beach.
Don’t allow sexual issues to keep you from the pleasures of life. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Sexual health is a part of our overall health, and it impacts a woman’s (and a man’s) sense of self and feeling of being healthy.

Women who suffer from depression or anxiety are more likely to have sexual health concerns, and women with sexual health concerns are more likely to have depression and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle—one that can be frustrating and difficult to break.

Chronic health issues or chronic health diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity or arthritis can interfere with a woman’s ability, or a couple’s ability, to have a healthy sexual relationship. And common conditions like pain with sex, low desire and relationship issues all play a part.

I recently saw a patient who came in for her second visit to our Spectrum Health Cancer, Menopause, and Sexual Health Clinic at the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion.

She shared her excitement about once again being able to have sex after we treated her pain. She told me that cancer had taken so much away from her, but she felt whole again now that she could be intimate with her husband.

I love sharing stories like this because it shows how committed we are to helping everyone live better lives—including being as sexually aware and healthy as they wish to be.

I recently found the following quote from the World Health Organization:

“The purpose of sexual health should be the enhancement of life and personal relationships and not merely counseling and care related to STDs and preventing unwanted pregnancies. Sexual health should involve (1) the capacity to enjoy and control sexual and reproductive behavior in accordance with a social and personal ethic; (2) a freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false benefits and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationships; and (3) freedom from organic disorders, diseases and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive functions.”

I share this quote with you because, as a physician, I believe in what it says, and I try to keep it in mind when discussing sexual health with my patients.

There are many causes of sexual health concerns, and they can be grouped in the following categories: interpersonal issues, physical issues and psychological issues.

When discussing interpersonal issues, we think about lack of intimacy, lack of respect and emotional abuse.

Physical issues include pain with sex from menopause and dryness, pain from history of pain and/or tight pelvic muscles, and medical conditions such as diabetes or arthritis.

Psychological problems include depression or anxiety, history of sexual abuse and poor self image.

No matter what your sexual issues include, there are solutions. Reach out to your medical provider for help.