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Female sexual dysfunction for non-sexologist

 

Sexual problems are common in women of all ages. Despite their frequency and impact, female sexual dysfunctions (FSDs) are often unrecognized and untreated in clinical settings. In response, the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health convened a multidisciplinary, international expert panel to develop a process of care (POC) that outlines recommendations for the identification of sexual problems in women. This POC describes core and advanced competencies in FSD for clinicians who are not sexual medicine specialists and serve as caregivers of women and, therefore, is useful for clinicians with any level of competence in sexual medicine. The POC begins with the expectation of universal screening for sexual concerns, proceeds with a 4-step model (eliciting the story, naming/reframing attention to the problem, empathic witnessing of the patient’s distress and the problem’s impact, and referral or assessment and treatment) that accommodates all levels of engagement, and delineates a process for referral when patients’ needs exceed clinician expertise. Distressing problems related to desire, arousal, and orgasm affect 12% of women across the lifespan. Low desire is the most common sexual problem, but sexual pain and other less common disorders of arousal and orgasm are also seen in clinical practice. Screening is best initiated by a ubiquity statement that assures the patient that sexual concerns are common and can be revealed. Patient-centered communication skills facilitate and optimize the discussion. The goal of the POC is to provide guidance to clinicians regarding screening, education, management, and referral for women with sexual problems