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Keywords:

  • education;
  • sexuality;
  • spinal cord injury

Purpose

To describe the basic knowledge of body anatomy and functioning, and the sexual knowledge of young adults with spina bifida (SB) and to investigate the associations between independence in daily functions and communication skills on the one hand and sexual knowledge and activity on the other among young people with SB.

Methods

Twenty-five patients with SB over the age of 16 years, who are under follow-up at the Alyn Children's Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, were enrolled in the study. Each patient was interviewed individually using the Sexual Knowledge Interview Schedule and the Functional Independence Measure.

Findings

There were 17 females and eight males aged 16–35 years, eight of the 25 with a lesion level of L2 and above. At the time of the interview three of the participants had a partner (12%) and seven (28%) indicated that they had had intimate sexual relationships. One subject answered correctly on all questions related to body anatomy, and seven answered correctly on all questions related to body part functions. Positive and significant associations were noted between motor abilities, sphincter management and sexual knowledge (rp 0.44–0.65). Knowledge of anatomy and function associated positively with sexual knowledge and experience (rp 0.48–0.59).

Conclusion

Young adults with SB who live in Israel exhibit a relatively low level of sexual experience. Since knowledge is associated with sexuality, it would be reasonable therefore to provide a structured educational program for this group of young adults, targeted to their unique disability.

Clinical Relevance

The rehabilitation nurse is in an optimal position to provide such education given her specialized training in sphincter management and her ongoing holistic view of these young patients.