Remember when we’d play doctor-doctor as kids? We’d diagnose and learn about different diseases just by role playing with children’s stethoscopes and watching doctor-related TV shows. But as adults our games now involve fun-fun sex that require better sources of medical information that can help the fun stay safe.
In truth, most of us are nervous about going to the doctor for any sex-type problems. That’s because of the shame and stigma around sex, the awkwardness in talking about sex but it’s also because we just don’t have enough information about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and medical care for sexual health, to make us feel confident in this department.
But relax. Here is Agents of Ishq’s handy guide to what type of doctor attends to what kind of ailments.
1. General Physician
Most doctors recommend that for any diagnosis related to sexual health, we first consult a general physician. It’s like lodging an FIR — first information to the officer on-call for our bodies. The physician can guide you to specialists on the basis of their diagnosis.
Usual degree after their name: MBBS
For ladies log, a gynaecologist you trust is almost like a best friend. For any problems related to periods, breasts, pregnancy, hormones and the uteri trouble, the gynaecologist is your go-to-person. A gynaecologist diagnoses and helps with remedying all problems related to the female reproductive and sexual organs. Periods not on time? Breasts are sore? Suspect hormonal imbalance? Pregnancy scare? Finding penetrative sex painful? A gynaec is the person to go to.
Usual degree after their name: MBBS (basic medical degree) and MD/MS/DNB in obstetrics and gynaecology.
If women find a fairy godparent in their gynaec, who do the men go to for questions and issues related to male reproduction? You could start by going to an andrologist (for more on andrologists, read our piece here). An andrologist is the medical baba of all things male fertility or dysfunction, because andrology is the study of a man’s body.
There’s a common confusion between urology and andrology. All andrologists are urologists but not all urologists are andrologists. Dr Prakash Vaswani, a leading urologist in Mumbai, clarifies, “Andrologists specifically focus on fertility related issues for men, like male infertility, problems related to the genitalia, such as undescended testes, diseases that can affect fertility or sexual function. It’s a more specific branch of study, unlike urology, which is a larger branch.”
Usual degree after their name: MBBS degree and MD/MS in urology with a specialisation in andrology
Urologists also focus on male health and fertility, but primarily examine problems related to prostate, bladder, kidneys and urinary tract. So along with sexual health issues, if a man has painful time while urinating, a burning sensation and/or suspects a urinary tract infection (UTI), he needs to find himself a urologist.
Usual degree after their name: MBBS and MD/MS/DNB in urology
Twenty three year old writer Shweta* had missed her periods for three months. She wondered whether it was PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). She immediately went to a gynaec, who ruled it out. She was then referred to an endocrinologist and was diagnosed with severe hormonal imbalance. Shweta had never even heard of such a specialisation before. Yeh kaunsa doctor hai?
An endocrinologist specialises in balancing all the masti our temperamental endocrine glands get up to (read: pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal glands). These glands are the fellowship of the hormone ring in our bodies. Massive mood swings, diabetes, cholesterol, hormonal balance are all under the jurisdiction of the endocrine system.
Dr Sheetal Jain, an endocrinologist in Delhi, says, “A well-oiled endocrine system is extremely important for a healthy sex life. Your hormones dictate how you feel about sex. So, regular check-ups on thyroid and other hormone tests are very important if you’re sexually active.”
Endocrinologist makes sure all the endocrine systems are like mogambos khush hue. They caters to all gender, but not without being referred to by a general physician first.
Usual degree after their name: MBBS and MD/MS in endocrinology.
A lot of sex-related issues are also mental and emotional. Loss of desire, problems with ejaculation and arousal and orgasmic disorders are not just physical but are deeply connected to emotional and mental distress. Stress, residual and unresolved issues, past troubles, lifestyle, depression, body-image issues and disorders and anxiety can impede sexual health.
This is where psychiatrists and psychologists come in.
Psychologists primarily focus on counselling, whereas psychiatrists have the license to prescribe medicines for your mental health, if necessary. It is advisable to consult a psychologist first. If the psychologist deems necessary that you’re in need of stronger intervention, he or she can recommend a psychiatrist.
Hitchkichao mat. A healthy sex life needs multiple pillars of support. If it’s not fun in your head, how can it be fun on the bed?
Usual degree after their name: Psychiatrists need a compulsory MBBS degree and an additional MD/MS in psychiatry. Psychologists are not medical doctors usually and have a master’s degree in psychology.
7. Sex therapist/Sexologist
So if a psychologist helps you with mental barriers to a good sex life, then what does a sex therapist do? While a psychologist/psychiatrist will holistically approach your mental health, a sex therapist helps you focus solely on sex-related mental attitudes. A sex therapist specifies in handling cases of men and women who want to and need to overcome psychological barriers and hesitations to having a relaxed and healthy sex life.
Sex therapists also go by the more commonly used term ‘sexologist’ — someone who studies sexuality. But while most sexologists and therapists generally rely on counselling to help sexuality-related issues, those with a medical degree can also prescribe medicines, if deemed necessary. Men and women of all sexual orientations can and should consult sexologists from time to time, if sexually active.
Usual degree after their name: Master’s degree in sexology and psychology (Some sexologists also have MBBS in addition to master’s degrees)
A dermatologist handles all things related to skin. So they’re not just to bachao our baal and pimples, but also to handle more serious rashes and skin infections caused by STIs. Natasha*, a 28-year-old chef in Mumbai was diagnosed with a herpes virus (an STI). Her entire inner thigh was discoloured, thanks to the infection. In spite of going to gynaecologists and urologists and a hundred other -ologists, she couldn’t fix her skin. It was beginning to lower her confidence.
Then, she consulted a dermatologist, who treated her infection alongside her on-going medications for HPV. The rashes started reducing and she felt better. She says, “Any STI needs to be handled on multiple levels. Just one doctor is not enough. It’s better to attack it from multiple levels.”
Usual degree after their name: MBBS and MD/MS/DNB/Pg Diploma in dermatology
9. STI specialists and Genito Urologists
Some specific branches of medicine specialise in STIs. Shrikant* was diagnosed with an STI when he was in the US. But he had to immediately return to India for his brother’s wedding. He figured he’d continue his medication while in India. But he had trouble finding a good STI clinic in Chennai, since STI specialisations are relatively rare in India. He was then referred to a genito-urologist through a general physician in Chennai, the closest he could come to an STI specialist.
STI specialists and genito-urologists specifically handle sexually transmitted diseases and their treatment. They’re super specialists who can be consulted only through reference. Just like you’re referred to a neurosurgeon, only through reference from an MD in general medicine.
Usual degree after their name: MBBS and MD/MS in urology, with specialisation in STI studies
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