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Home Knowledge CenterHealth Information for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Health Information for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Lesbian and bisexual women can have unique topics to discuss with their health care providers because they may be at greater risk for certain conditions. See the below topics that are important to consider for your health care and well-being.

Important Topics to Discuss with Your Health Care Provider

Lesbian and bisexual women need a health care provider that’s LGBTQ+ affirming and familiar with the medical, emotional, and behavioral issues that are unique to their community. Heart disease, cancer, depression, and anxiety are all more common for lesbian and bisexual women. Your health care provider can help you find the appropriate care and take the right steps to lower your risks of these health challenges.

Here are some topics that you may want to consider when talking to your health care provider:

1. Access to Care

If your health care provider knows your sexual orientation and has the special skills, experience, and training to appropriately treat LGBTQ+ individuals, then they are more likely to provide you with the competent care you need. You can find a provider who is affirming and competent in treating LGBTQ+ individuals at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) website. Be sure to review your coverage and make sure your coverage and make sure your provider is in-network.

2. Cancer Screenings1

Lesbian and bisexual women are at greater risk for breast and certain gynecological cancers but less likely to be screened than their heterosexual counterparts. Early diagnosis is crucial to identifying cancers when they’re most curable. Check with your health care provider to make sure you’re up-to-date with your cancer screenings, vaccines, pelvic exams, and Pap tests.

3. Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can be more common among gay and bisexual individuals, especially those who are younger or not open about their sexual orientation.2 Lesbian and bisexual teens and young adults may be at greater risk of mental and behavioral health challenges that can lead to suicide. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, talk to your health care and insurance providers to see what programs, support, and counseling options are available to you.

4. Heart Health

Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to have pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases than their heterosexual counterparts due to their increased risk of using tobacco and alcohol and struggling with their weight.3

Talk to your health care provider about annual screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor and insurance provider can also offer guidance and identify programs that will appropriately support your needs and help you quit smoking, increase exercise, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

5. Alcohol and Substance Use

More than one drink per day can increase your risk of cancer and liver disease and lead to other health problems. Drug use, even if infrequent, can lead to a wide range of health issues. You can confidentially talk with and ask your health care provider for help if you’re concerned about or trying to quit your drinking or drug use.

6. Domestic Violence

Lesbian and bisexual women experience domestic violence more commonly than their heterosexual counterparts with bisexual women being at the greatest risk.4 If you’re experiencing physical and/or emotional abuse in your relationship, your health care and insurance providers can find programs, counselors, and organizations to help support you.

7. Sexual Health1

Lesbian and bisexual women are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). These STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, mucous membrane contact, vaginal fluids, and menstrual blood. Practicing safe sex and maintaining hygiene can reduce the risk of spreading STIs to your sexual partner.

Certain vaccines are available to prevent STIs, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV. People living with HIV who take HIV medicine, or antiretroviral therapy (ART), can control their symptoms and live long, healthy lives, while preventing the transmission of HIV to their sexual partners. Those who have an increased risk of exposure to HIV may have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to reduce the risk of contracting HIV from their sexual partners.

Talk with your health care provider about STI screenings, how often you should schedule them, and what vaccines would be appropriate for you.

Tags

Women's Health Cancer Screening Alcohol Use

Related

LGBTQ+ Health Disparities Cancer Facts for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

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Source:

1This information may only be relevant to certain individuals depending on anatomy, physiology, and personal experience.

2 The Relationship between a Sense of Belonging to the LGBTIQ + Community, Internalized Heterosexism, and Depressive Symptoms among Bisexual and Lesbian Women, Taylor Francis Online, December 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15299716.2020.1862726

3 Differences in Health-Related Quality of Life and Health Behaviors, National Library of Medicine, December 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33325783/

4 NISVS: An overview of 2010 findings on victimization by sexual orientation, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf, accessed June 9, 2022

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