All women face certain health risks. However, sexual minority women, such as those who identify as lesbian or bisexual as well as women who have sex with women, have some specific health concerns.
Although your individual risks are shaped by many factors beyond your sexual orientation and practices — including family history and age — it's important to understand common health issues for sexual minority women and steps you can take to stay healthy.
SAFEGUARD YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Minority women are at a higher risk or depression and anxiety. Also, youth who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have a higher risk of depression and attempted suicide.
Contributing factors include social alienation, discrimination, and rejection by loved ones, abuse and violence. These issue might be more severe for sexual minority women who are not "out" to others and those who lack social support. If left untreated, depression can lead to risky sexual behavior and a downward of spiral of emotional, behavioral, health, and possible legal and financial problems.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
Sexually transmitted infections (STI's) such as human papillomavirus (HPV), bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis can spread between women. Oral sex and sexual behavior involving digital-vaginal or digital-anal contact, particularly with shared penetrative sex toys, can spread infections as well.
Sexual contact is also a possible means of contracting HIV. To date there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and many sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV and genital herpes. The best way to stay healthy is to always practice safe sex.
TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS:
Make routine health care a priority. Some sexual minority women struggle to find a doctor knowledgeable about their specific health issues and with whom they feel comfortable discussing their needs and concerns. The website for the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is one place to find referrals for doctors.
Look for a doctor who is curious, emphatic and respectful of your specific needs. Share your sexual orientation with you provider, and ask about routine screenings recommend for women in your age group; such as blood pressure, and cholesterol measurements, and screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer.
If you're not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship, schedule regular screening for sexually transmitted infections (STI's). Share any other health concerns you might have with your doctor as well. Early diagnosis and treatment helps promote long-term health.
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Source: Conhran, Susan, Ph.D. "EPublications." Lesbian and Bisexual Health Fact Sheet. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 16 July 2012. Web. 01 May 2017.