Each year, numerous married and single South Asians move to the United States. They acclimate to their new lives, adjust to marriage, and forge new relationships with community, work, and family. But for their “healthy life” in the U.S., many new residents do not know where to turn for health services  that may not be widely available in India. In fact, some practices, such as sexual health services, will often be new experiences that can cause embarrassment and fear. Knowing what services are available and what to expect can provide access, build confidence, and calm nerves on the path to using these tools.

Here are three areas that you might want to consider exploring:

1. Consider a sexual health checkup with your doctor.

It’s important to take preventive care of your sexual health. Maintaining your sexual health is a lot easier when you develop a comfortable relationship with your health care provider. In California, there are countless South Asian physicians available, and many are women. Women should talk to their health care provider about getting regular pelvic, pap, and breast exams from an OB/GYN, and men can see their internal medicine doctor, general practitioner, or urologist to have their prostate and testicles checked. Your provider can also provide information on the different forms of contraception. Planned Parenthood lists them as continuous abstinence, “outercourse,” the shot, the pill, the patch, the ring, the condom, a diaphragm or cap, the female condom, spermicide, or sponge, the IUD, and emergency contraception (not recommended for teens). Sexual health checkups can also involve screening for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, reproductive and breast cancers, menstruation, fertility issues, and sexual function problems.

2. Contact a doctor and/or sex therapist if you have some sort of sexual dysfunction.

Many young women and men from India have been raised with little information, instruction, or comfort with sexuality terms and information. This can lead to sexual function problems for newly married couples. In the U.S., it is estimated that 40-60 percent of couples struggle with a sexual problem at some time in the course of their relationship. In most cases, sexual and relationship functioning can be improved with proper diagnosis and treatment by a sex therapist. Treatment is confidential, and sessions usually last one hour and consist of talking; there is no touching. The therapist will assign you “homework” to help you work toward your treatment goals.

3. Be open to educating your children about sex.

Sex is very often a subject that is not mentioned in South Asian families. Young children can get distressed by the wrong idea or incomplete information about sex from peers on the playground. Middle and high school students in particular have to navigate peer pressures, and there is the almost constant bombardment of sexual messages and images in magazines, movies, ads, song lyrics, and the Internet. Parents should try to provide the facts needed to make healthy decisions and navigate through these confusing messages. Helping your children develop communicative and decision-making skills and providing them with facts about anatomy, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and safer sex will help them grow into healthy adults. Parents may want to can use books, DVDs, and websites to guide the education.

Mary Buxton is a certified sex therapist. Contact her at www.marybuxton.com

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