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Sexual Health Awareness Month; What you need to know

Women's health covers a wide array of topics, including sexual health. September is Sexual Health Awareness Month, but what does sexual wellbeing mean?

Nationally recognized menopause specialist Dr. Diana Bitner, along with nurse practitioner Natasha Dehaan, talk about the importance of maintaining sexual health.

According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. This can be done by having a positive approach to sexuality and relationships, as well as safe sexual experience free of discrimination and violence.

Everyone is unique in how they think and feel about their sexuality, and when sexual health is ignored or shamed or abused, it can lead to negative side-effects such as obesity, depression, anxiety, and unhealthy sexual practices.

When sexual health is embraced, valued, and cared for, it supports a positive self- image, fuels a healthy lifestyle of self-care with exercise and healthy eating, and when shared with another, has the potential to create a powerful bond.

As far as physical aspects go, there are very basic things like the ability to plan a family, have access to birth control options, and to be sexually active without risk for sexually transmitted disease. It is also routine healthcare to have breast and cervical cancer screening, STD screening, and available treatments. Healthy sex is not about control or force or fear, but about love and safety.

Bottom line, sexual health is important and valuable and needs to be talked about with your partner. There are solutions for pain with sex and low desire, as well as tools and language to use to get the conversations started with your partner.

First it starts with being clear with yourself what you want and where your fears or barriers exist-issues or beliefs from childhood, from past relationships which were not healthy, or from fear of self-expression. If the topic is beyond our comfort level and additional expertise is needed, Dr. Bitner and her team know how to find that referral and help facilitate your care. Be aware that sexual health is an important part of health and take care of you.

To set up an appointment with Dr. Bitner or her staff, call (616)267-8520. Their office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Suite A., Grand Rapids. Make sure to visit her blog at healthbeat.spectrumhealth.org/blogs.

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