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Why Your Gynecologist Needs to Know If You Are Sexually Active

Being aware of sexual health is an important part of maintaining overall wellness, and it’s important to include regular checkups with a gynecologist. But what is considered sexually active? Can a gynecologist tell if you are sexually active? Why do they need to know if you are?

What is considered sexually active? 

In medical terms, sexually active is defined as engaging in any form of sexual activity with someone. Be sure to tell your gynecologist about your most recent sexual activity, even if it was several months before. This will help them determine which tests to run to detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and review the best birth control options for you.

Being sexually active does not include masturbating. From a strictly medical standpoint, although masturbation is a type of sexual act, it does not involve a partner. Therefore, it doesn’t involve a risk of contracting STIs or getting pregnant.

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Can a gynecologist tell if you are sexually active?

Another common question is whether a gynecologist can tell if you’re sexually active. It’s very difficult and sometimes impossible for a health care provider to make this determination without asking you. A pelvic or visual exam usually doesn’t offer many clues about sexual activity. Be honest with your gynecologist so they can check for early signs of pregnancy and test for gonorrhea, genital herpes, and other STIs when necessary. Telling them the truth also allows them to ask the right follow-up questions and discuss proper methods of birth control.

Another common question is whether gynecologists can tell if someone is still a virgin. Some people believe in the concept of virginity, although it's quite controversial. The truth is that the hymen is a flexible piece of mucosal tissue that some people are born without. The hymen is not an indication of virginity. Because of all these reasons, it isn’t possible for a gynecologist to independently confirm whether or not someone has had sex just by looking at their hymen. 

The only time anyone can really know anything about your sex life and level of activity is when you choose to share this information with them.

Why tell your gynecologist everything

If you’ve recently become sexually active and are feeling a bit nervous about your next visit to the gynecologist, that’s completely normal. Having an open and honest discussion about your sexual activity is crucial to maintaining your health. Keeping your health care provider informed means that they can potentially:

  • Test for STIs: 

The main reason gynecologists ask about sexual activity is to evaluate the chances of sexually transmitted infections. This allows them to detect and diagnose these issues early on and to start immediate treatment if needed.

  • Recommend methods of birth control: 

A health care provider who is familiar with your sexual history is equipped to discuss various birth control options with you. They’ll be able to provide useful information and advice so you can choose the method that suits your lifestyle. 

  • Discuss safe and healthy sex practices: 

Opening the lines of communication between you and your health care provider regarding sex also helps them determine if you are practicing it responsibly. They can even assist you in dealing with any sex-related issues that may arise.

  • Look for signs of pregnancy: 

A routine gynecologist visit will likely include a quick check for pregnancy symptoms if they are aware that you’re sexually active. This will enable them to detect the early stages of pregnancy and to go over important next steps with you.

While you may have heard the term “sexually active” before, its exact meaning can be confusing. From a medical perspective, being sexually active includes current or past sexual activity with someone. Being open with your gynecologist about your sexual history allows them to test for pregnancy or STIs, discuss birth control methods, and offer key advice. 

By building a trusting relationship with your gynecologist, you can work together to maintain your health and well-being.

Lindau, Stacy Tessler, and Natalia Gavrilova. “Sex, Health, and Years of Sexually Active Life Gained Due to Good Health: Evidence from Two US Population Based Cross Sectional Surveys of Ageing.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), BMJ Publishing Group Ltd., 9 Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835854/.

“The Initial Reproductive Health Visit.” ACOG, www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2014/05/the-initial-reproductive-health-visit.

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