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What is sexual health? Q&A with a sexpert

With Alyse Kelly-Jones, MD

When you think about your overall wellness, you probably think about how many steps you’re fitting into the day, whether or not you have a healthy diet, and how much water you should be drinking. Conversations about physical and psychological wellness often leave out one critical but overlooked aspect: sexual health. 

Tryon Medical Partners women’s health specialist Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones sees patients every day to guide them through their most intimate questions about everything from low libido to orgasming and hormone issues. She answers some key questions about sexual health, everything from what sexual health really is to how to maintain yours. 

Q: What really is sexual health?

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional and mental well-being in relation to sexuality, as defined by the World Health Organization. It’s important to note that sexual health is not just the absence of disease or dysfunction, but also encompasses positive aspects of sexuality, such as pleasure, intimacy and communication. It is critical to understand the basics of sexual health as you embark on your sexual health journey – start by getting acquainted with sexual and reproductive body parts. 

“I often find myself having conversations with patients about sexual functioning,” Dr. Kelly-Jones says. “We often have to go back to the basics. Many women, if you give them a diagram, cannot name their female body parts. How can we have good sexual functioning without even knowing our own anatomy?”

Q: What are some common sexual health concerns that patients bring to the doctor’s office?

Dr. Kelly-Jones notes that the most frequent sexual health concerns are low libido, painful sex and difficulty achieving orgasm. Hormonal issues, such as those experienced during perimenopause and menopause, can also impact sexual health and function.

“It’s comforting to understand that the majority of experiences my patients come to me with are entirely normal,” Dr. Kelly-Jones shares. “Issues with sexual functioning are common and can absolutely be addressed, the first step is having a conversation about it.” 

Q: If you could share one piece of sexual health advice with everyone, what advice would you give?

Dr. Kelly-Jones emphasizes the importance of understanding your own body and what feels good. Everyone’s body is different, and it’s helpful to explore and be curious about your own sexual preferences without shame. Once you’ve explored your own preferences, she encourages sharing the knowledge with your partner to enhance sexual experiences and improve overall functioning. 

“We have this myth that everyone gets turned on in the same way,” Dr. Kelly-Jones points out. “It couldn’t be further from the truth. We have to spend time getting to know our unique selves first.”  

Q: What is the difference between gynecology and sexual health?

Gynecology is a medical specialty focused on reproductive health throughout a woman’s lifetime. Sexual health, on the other hand, is a broader concept that includes reproductive health but also encompasses aspects of sexual well-being beyond reproduction. Dr. Kelly-Jones emphasizes the importance of finding a healthcare environment where you feel comfortable openly discussing sexual health concerns and seeking guidance.

“It can be very difficult for a patient with a sexual functioning concern to bring it up,” Dr. Kelly-Jones empathizes. “At Tryon Medical Partners, we are comfortable covering this topic with patients. We speak sex here.” 

Visit the Tryon Women’s Center website to learn more about how to make an appointment to enrich your sexual health today.