Sexual Health & Wellness
Live a healthy, satisfying life.
A satisfying sex life can positively impact your overall health and well-being. The sexual health and wellness experts at Novant Health provide services to help you have a safe, fulfilling sexual relationship at any age.
Women's sexual health
Your sexual wellness is closely tied to your overall health and well-being. If you have a concern about your sexual health, you may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about seeking help. Our team of specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating sexual health concerns in women of all ages. We are here to help provide answers in a comfortable, supportive and understanding environment and empower you to take steps to improve your sexual health.
Common sexual health conditions
There are a number of concerns that can affect your sexual health and wellness including:
- Painful intercourse
- Difficulty reaching orgasm
- Trouble becoming aroused (low libido)
- Heavy periods
- Pelvic pain
- Urinary incontinence
- Symptoms associated with menopause, such as vaginal dryness
- Hormone imbalances, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Women often experience ups and downs in their libido tied to life changes, especially ones associated with hormonal changes, like pregnancy or menopause.
If your symptoms don't go away on their own, Low libido is often a treatable condition with other underlying causes including:
- Medical causes
- Effects of prescriptions medications
- Lifestyle habits
- Psychological or emotional factors
- Anatomical factors
- Issues related to pelvic health
Treatments and services
Our team will work with you to listen to your concerns and explore treatment options that fit your needs and lifestyle. This may involve collaborating with other specialists to find the cause of your sexual health concern, address any related medical issues and provide resources to help you make decisions about your sexual health.
Other Sexual Health and Wellness Considerations
Birth control comes in various forms — from easily reversible daily pills to surgical procedures that provide permanent results. Each has pros and cons, so speak to your primary care provider to learn about your options and decide what's right for you and your family planning goals.
Reversible birth control methods include:
- Oral contraceptive pills
- Vaginal rings
- Implantable rods
- Condoms (male and female)
Permanent birth control methods are either surgical or hormonal emergency contraception. In a surgical method, such as a tubal ligation or vasectomy, the surgeon blocks tubes to prevent reproductive cells (eggs or sperm) from reaching their destination. Hormonal emergency contraception is used after a woman has had unprotected sex to interrupt the release and fertilization of the egg, preventing pregnancy.
When to Start Taking Birth Control
The ideal time to begin birth control is once you have a well-established menstrual cycle, so the mid-teens is a typical starting age. You can usually begin birth control anytime during your cycle, but that may depend on the type of birth control. Copper IUDs are effective immediately, but hormonal methods can take several days to work. Your provider can help you decide the best method for you. All forms of birth control have potential side effects, so it's essential to visit your physician regularly to assess your overall sexual wellness.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), refer to bacterial or viral infections resulting from sexual activity. The most common STDs include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
STDs vary widely in severity and risk. Some are curable, while others may be managed through treatment and medication. Certain STDs pose severe and ongoing health risks. STDs are preventable through safe sex practices, proper communication with sexual partners or abstinence.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
HPV is the most common STD in the United States. It's usually passed through anal or vaginal sex but can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and according to the CDC, almost every sexually active person will get HPV at some point if they don't get vaccinated. Because of the danger these viruses can pose, it's important to get periodic pap tests that screen for HPV.
Symptoms and Treatment of HPV
The most common symptom of HPV is genital warts. These look like bumps or clusters in the genital area. Many women who contract HPV won't experience symptoms, and the virus will eventually disappear on its own. In other cases, it can have more serious and long-lasting consequences, such as increasing your risk of specific cancers. The HPV16 and HPV18 strains of HPV accompany 70% of cervical cancers.
Warts from HPV are usually treated with medications. If that isn't successful, your provider may recommend other solutions, such as cryotherapy (freezing the wart) or surgical interventions to remove the infected tissue. If you have HPV on your cervix or signs of precancer, your provider may biopsy those cells or remove them.
Preventing HPV with Vaccination
Vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. There are two FDA-approved vaccines for HPV — Cervarix and Gardasil. Both vaccines are given three times for six months. Because HPV is so common, the vaccines are most effective before you become sexually active and are usually administered in the tween years. Gardasil is also approved for use in boys between the age of 9 to 26.
Knowing if you or your partner has contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can help you avoid spreading or catching the infection. It can also give you peace of mind by assuring you're free from infection.
- Schedule regular screenings. Have regular pap tests, pelvic examinations and periodic STI testing to ensure you're healthy. And getting infections treated early can make a big difference.
- Watch for warning signs. Be aware of your partner's body and your own. If you notice any sores, blisters, rashes or other irregularities, get them checked by your physician right away.