Do Sexual Minorities Receive Appropriate Sexual and Reproductive Health Care and Counseling?

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2019 Jan;28(1):53-62. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6866. Epub 2018 Oct 27.


Context: Sexual minority women (SMW) are less likely to use sexual and reproductive health care services and receive contraceptive counseling than their heterosexual peers. The role of recent sexual partners and the type of information provided when SMW access health services are unclear.

Methods: The National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2015 was used to document sexual orientation disparities in the use of sexual and reproductive health services and counseling in clinical settings among 20,703 women. We incorporate data on sexual partners in the past 12 months to investigate whether recent sex with men was associated with health care seeking behavior and reproductive counseling.

Results: Eight-seven percent of the sample reported a male partner in the past 12 months, including 83% of bisexual women and 17% of lesbian women. In clinical settings, 48% of women reported birth control counseling at pregnancy or Pap tests, 49% reported a condom consult at an sexually transmitted diseases (STD) screening, and 9% reported emergency contraception counseling at a Pap test. Logistic regression models show that lesbian women were less likely than heterosexual women to have been given a contraceptive prescription or received contraceptive counseling, but were more likely to have received an STD test. In clinical settings, lesbian women were less likely to receive contraceptive counseling at pregnancy tests, and lesbian women without male partners were less likely to have a counseling about condom use at STD-related visits compared with heterosexual women.

Conclusions: At least some women and providers adjust health care seeking behaviors and information provided to women based upon recent sexual behavior histories. More work is needed to understand why disparities in reproductive health services and contraceptive use persist among SMW who engage in sex with men.

Keywords: health care; health disparities; sexual minority women; sexual orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Condoms
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Counseling*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Planning Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Health
  • Reproductive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Safe Sex
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control