Approach to the Sexual History and Physical Exam

  • Stephanie Addison-HoltEmail author
  • Meera Shah


Taking a sexual history is an important facet of adolescent health that can be challenging for healthcare providers. Adolescents and young adults aged 13–24 are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) due to risky sexual behaviors. Many of these high-risk behaviors are influenced by related risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol intake, peer norms, and sexual health education (or lack thereof). The long-term consequences of STIs can include fertility problems and maternal-fetal transmission of infections, in addition to the obvious public health risks of continued transmission in the community. For these reasons, it is essential to take a thorough sexual history using the methods outlined below. Providers should aim to make the patient feel comfortable by reinforcing normalcy and maintaining confidentiality in their interaction. Finally, the physical exam is crucial in forming a differential diagnosis of any symptoms that a patient might be experiencing. This chapter will provide insight into methods of obtaining a sexual history from a patient in a professional, comfortable, and efficient manner.


Sexual history Confidentiality Sexual behaviors Risk 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.General Pediatrics and Adolescent MedicineEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Emory University Department of PediatricsEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA

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