4 Things Every Woman Needs to Do for Her Sexual Health, According to an Ob-Gyn

Women’s well-being has lagged behind men’s for far too long, but there are steps you can take to empower yourself — and all womxn.

"Every woman deserves good sexual health and a robust sex life," says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an ob-gyn and a gynecologic surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and the founder of Her Viewpoint, a social media forum for women to discuss topics like sex and menopause. "Yet in the medical field, women's health is often put on the back burner. Even today, innovations and treatments that affect women take significantly longer to get approved than those for men do."

For Black women, the situation is worse, as there are inequalities in care and treatment, says Dr. Shepherd. Black women are more likely to get conditions like fibroids and to have worse outcomes. And the medical field tends to be white and male. Black female physicians make up less than 3 percent of U.S. doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That's why it's so vital to be your own advocate. Here's what you need to know.

Speak Up About Treatment Options

If you're experiencing discomfort, painful sex, or bleeding, see your doctor. You might have fibroids, which affect 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of Black women by the time they're 50. "We've developed minimally invasive surgeries that can really help. But women still say, 'I've been to several doctors, and I was given one option.' For African American women, research shows that option is usually hysterectomy," says Dr. Shepherd. "Ask your doctor about all the available treatments, so you can choose the best one for you."

For younger women, the cause of pelvic pain may be endometriosis. "One in 10 women suffers from it," says Dr. Shepherd. "Now there are gynecologists who specialize in surgery for the condition, and we have a research-backed medication [called Orilissa] that treats it."

Understand Your Screenings

"Cervical cancer is the most preventable and treatable type of pelvic cancer because we can screen for it with Pap smears," says Dr. Shepherd. "But most women have no idea that's what a Pap smear is for. Screening tests are so important. Women are still dying from cervical cancer, and they shouldn't be."

Remember to Enjoy Yourself

"What we experience during intimate moments and how we feel about ourselves as sexual beings starts in our head," says Dr. Shepherd. "Sexual wellness takes brainpower. Being confident and enjoying yourself is empowering."

Advocate for Change

"When someone is disadvantaged because of inequality in education, housing, jobs, income, and criminal justice, that affects their health," says Dr. Shepherd. "As a Black physician, I have a responsibility to navigate the system and fight for my patients so they can get what they need. By speaking out, I can make an impact, but I'm counting on white physicians to amplify the message and be part of the change." As a patient, you can make your voice heard too. Says Dr. Shepherd, "All of us working together is how change is going to happen." (

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