A woman’s reproductive system has both interior (inside the body) and exterior (outside the body) components. Interior components include the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and vagina. Exterior components include the labia (major and minor), clitoris, urethra, vaginal opening, and mons pubis.
These two halves are designed for reproduction, and they work together to enable sperm to fertilize an egg to produce a baby. If the egg is not fertilized within a menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus sheds (which is when menstruation happens) and then a new cycle starts.
A woman’s sexual health needs change with age. Common concerns include:
- Birth control
- Fertility problems
- Labor and delivery
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Sexual desire or arousal disorders
- Other infections
- Menopause and vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
- Cervical cancer screening.
Men’s sexual health
Most of the male reproductive system is external, and include the penis, urethra, and testicles. These work together with the internal components, the epididymis, vas deferens, and accessory glands, to ensure sperm is kept at the correct temperature and can be propelled out of the testis into a woman’s reproductive system for reproduction.
Men’s sexual health needs also change with age, although less dramatically than women’s. Common concerns include:
- Fertility problems
- Sexually transmitted or other infections
- Erectile dysfunction; premature, delayed, or absence of ejaculation or other arousal disorders
- Prostate problems (benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostate cancer)
- Penile deformities (eg, Peyronie’s disease).
Diagnosing sexual health issues
Your doctor will take a complete history and ask you what your symptoms are. They may ask you about psychological, physical, or spiritual aspects of your life that may have an impact on your sexual wellbeing.
Laboratory tests are usually only conducted if symptoms suggest a medical cause for the condition. A physical examination may be conducted depending on the sexual health issue being investigated. Physical examinations should include the whole body and not be limited to the reproductive system.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if sexual problems persist and are a concern.
Treatment depends on the cause of sexual dysfunction. Medical causes that are reversible or treatable are usually managed medically or surgically. Counseling may be an option for some people. Examples of medications used for certain sexual health conditions include:
- Sexually transmitted infections: antibiotics or antivirals depending on the causative organism
- Erectile dysfunction: PDE-5 inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), avanafil (Stendra), or vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn); or alprostadil (Caverject, Edex)
- Fertility problems in women: eg, clomiphene
- Vaginal dryness: lubricating gels, hormone creams, hormone replacement therapy
- Dyspareunia (painful sex) in women: eg, ospemifene (Osphena)
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women: eg, flibanserin (Addyi).
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Female Sexual Dysfunction: Diagnosis and Treatment Options
- Four Common STD’s: Take Away Points
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.