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13 Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask Your Ob-Gyn

Coming in for your annual women’s health exam can be anxiety-inducing itself, and speaking up about a nonexistent libido, sex on your period, or how you smell down there is even more uncomfortable (and sometimes scary). While you should never stay mum when it comes to your health, you can make your next convo with your gynecologist easier by coming armed with the following knowledge about common womanly concerns.

RELATED: Get natural, DIY remedies for common health problems in The Doctor’s Book of Natural Health Cures!

My Guy Says I Smell “Funny.” Should I Be Worried?

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We all smell differently. “Everything we consume-food, drinks, medication, drugs, alcohol-change our vaginal secretions and men’s semen,” says Justine Shuey, Ph.D., a professor of human sexuality and certified sex educator. If you’re self-conscious about your odor, try drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables (other than cruciferous veggies, as their sulfur compounds can give you that distinctive rotten-egg smell), and cutting back on alcohol since it can increase sweating in your crotch. And-no-brainer-quit smoking; the smell permeates everything-and we mean everything.

However if your scent suddenly varies greatly from your normal for no apparent reason, comes with a lot of discharge, or turns “fishy,” see your doctor, as all of these are signs of infection. One possible culprit: your birth control method. “Both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs have an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis, which is characterized by a fishy smell,” says Colette Brown-Graham, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners. If you’re prone to infection but don’t want to change to another birth control, eating a healthy, well-rounded diet and supplementing with a probiotic can help.

Is It Safe to Have Sex During My Period?

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There aren’t any unique risks about having sex during your red week, except that the chance of pregnancy is more complicated, Brown-Graham says. If you have a 28-day cycle, you ovulate 14 days before the onset of your next cycle, so you would be relatively “safe” from pregnancy. But if you have a 22-day cycle and therefore ovulate on day eight, having intercourse immediately after your period would be decidedly more “risky.” “No time is ever perfectly safe, but many women who understand their ovulatory pattern can tell when they have more or less risk of becoming pregnant,” Brown-Graham adds. Of course if you use condoms or another form of birth control, you should be fine, and since some women report increased sensation and pleasure during that time of the month, you may want to consider it.

When Should I Worry About Itching Down There?

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Since itching down yonder can happen due to anything from sexually transmitted infections or yeast infections to too-tight pants or staying in damp gym clothes for too long, it can be hard to know when to worry, says Allison Hill, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. If you’re not sure of the source and the itching persists after you shower, she recommends making an appointment with your doctor, stat.

What’s the Difference Between Normal PMS and Unhinged, Need-Meds PMS?

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Moodiness is a common part of PMS, says Gail Saltz, M.D. a psychiatrist and author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead To a Better Life. What’s uncommon, however, is anxiety that makes functioning in your daily life difficult or depression that leaves you highly irritable such that you are exploding at others or feeling hopeless and crying. These symptoms could indicate premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). If your PMS is interfering with your life, talk to your doctor, as PMDD can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.

How Much Daily Discharge Is Normal?

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Forget “normal,” Hill says. “The amount of vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman, and the color and consistency change as you progress throughout your cycle.” What’s more important is to know what is normal for you. If you notice any sudden change in your discharge, make an appointment with your doctor to identify what may be going on, such as a vaginal infection.

Do I Really Have to Wait to Have Sex After Waxing?

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You may have heard that you need to nix nookie for 24 hours after your Brazilian because the micro-tears created during the procedure make you more susceptible to infection. However Hill says the risk is minimal. “You can have sex anytime after waxing.” So go for it if you’re not too sensitive and can’t wait.

I’m Never in the Mood. What Could Be Causing My Low Libido?

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“There are so many possible reasons-psychological, relational, and physical-that you have no desire that it can be hard to know where to start,” says Stephanie Buehler, PhD., a sex therapist and author of What Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know About Sex. Sometimes it’s just where you are in life, such as if you’ve recently had a baby or are going into perimenopause, which can begin as early as your 30s.

But if the issue lasts more than a few months, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to rule out physical problems such as low estrogen or hypothyroidism. Be sure to mention any medications you are taking, as many prescription drugs (particularly antidepressants) and supplements come with decreased libido as a side effect.

If everything checks out normally, Buehler recommends talking to a sex therapist. Your nonexistent drive may simply be a result of settling into a long-term relationship: The first heady rush of lust has abated, and now your desire may be more responsive and not kick in until after you start foreplay with your partner.

How Much Discharge Is Normal During Sex?

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Vaginal lubrication and secretions are a totally normal-and necessary!-part of having sex, and every woman is different. “Some women have a lot of secretions during sex, and some have more when they get very aroused during foreplay or when they orgasm. Some women even ejaculate,” Shuey says. As long as you feel fine, forget about it so you can focus on how good sex feels. If you really care, you can always put down a towel to protect your sheets.

So There Really Is Such a Thing As Female Ejaculation?

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Men aren’t the only ones who can ejaculate. Some women also squirt as a result of g-spot stimulation, Shuey says. “The fluid is most similar to prostate fluid in men. It builds up in the skene’s glands and exits through the urethra during orgasm,” she explains. Although not all women experience it, most women likely can learn to ejaculate if they are confident and comfortable with experimenting, Shuey adds. But just like an orgasm, there’s no reason to try and force it, especially if doing so will distract you from enjoying the moment.

Can I Safely Have Sex During Pregnancy?

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As long as you don’t have a medical complication like a placenta previa, cervical incompetence, or unexplained vaginal bleeding, Hill says it’s totally fine to go for it in whatever way is coziest for you and your partner.

While most women are comfortable in a variety of positions for the first two trimesters, by the third you may need to be strategic. Hill says the majority of women find that lying on their side is easiest, but try a variety of positions and use pillows to find what works best for you and your man. Just be careful of lying on your back, as doing so can cause some pregnant women to become dizzy and nauseous-not exactly that loving feeling!

When Should I Worry About a Painful Bump Downstairs?

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“An aching bump in the vaginal area is most likely a pimple or ingrown hair,” Hill says. Both of which are not dangerous and will often resolve on their own. See your doctor for an exam if the bump persists for more than a few days or you can’t figure out what it is, as it could also be a Bartholin’s cyst, herpes, or genital warts.

Is There Less Risk of Pregnancy If I Have Sex Within the Few Days After My Period Ends?

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The days right after and before your period are your least fertile, so if you have regular menstrual cycles, then you can use the rhythm method to avoid pregnancy, says Hill, who recommends using a period tracker app to take any guessing out of the equation. Of course-as with any birth control method-there’s still a risk of pregnancy with natural family planning, especially if you’re not good at keeping accurate records or have widely varying cycles.

Why Are My Nipples So Tender All the Time?

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Thanks to the thousands of nerve endings in the nipples, it’s completely normal for them to be sensitive throughout your entire cycle, Hill says, although for many women they’re most sensitive just before your menstrual cycle due to the sharp drop in progesterone.

If this sensitivity is a new development, you may want to run to the drugstore for a pregnancy test since it could be an early sign of a baby on board. Similarly, because of the change in hormones, new birth control and menopause can also cause sore nipples.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen

Vaginal itching? Sex during your period? A different smell down there? Leaky bladder?

These burning questions can often send women straight to Googleâas they’re too uncomfortable to ask their doctor. Does this sound familiar? It’s completely normal to feel awkward, but remember — your gynecologist has heard it all, and more.

Answering uncomfortable, or even scary, questions is your doctor’s job.

Your job is to speak up about your health. Come prepared to your next appointment with these and other questions to ask your gynecologist, all of which they’ve heard before!

Preparing for Gynecologist Visit

Write down and bring your questions.
When you’re anxious, it’s easy to lose your nerve or forget what you wanted to ask, so write everything down. When making your list, don’t be afraid to get real. Your doctor won’t be shocked, even if you find the topic a little embarrassing.

Get the awkward stuff out of the way first.
Your doctor will usually ask you a few questions before your exam. This is your one-on-one time to get the support you need. With your list in hand, use this time to go through your questions.

Bring the dates of your last monthly period.
One question youshould count on answering at your gynecologist visit is when you had your most recent period. Jot down the dates—when it started and when it ended.

Answer your doctor’s questions honestly.
Especially when it comes to your sex life, sexual history and any health concerns you have, it’s important to be up front with your gynecologist. They’re here to help, not judge, but they can only do that having all the information.

If you feel like your doctor is judging you, or not helping because of personal views, it’s time to switch doctors.

Prioritize your health.
Visit your OB-GYN once a year.

PRO TIP:Set a reminder on your digital planner to schedule your next visit.

Questions to Ask Your Gynecologist

Is that smell normal?

Here’s the secret. Every woman smells different down there depending on what you eat, drink, even the medications you take. Pungent foods, spices and alcohol leak into vaginal secretions and can create intense smells. Vaginal odor is also common on your period or after strenuous workouts.

Bottom line? Don’t sweat vaginal odor too much. But if it keeps bugging you or the odor turns “fishy,” see your doctor sooner than later. It could be a sign of infection.

Should I clean my vagina?

Vaginal cleansing is one of the most controversial women’s health topics. And with good reason. An abundance of over-the-counter feminine hygiene products tempt women to self-cleanse. Know that it’s best to avoid putting any cleansers up into the vagina. Stick to gently cleaning the vulva and labia daily with water and fragrance-free soap and, if you’re still concerned about feeling clean, bring it up at your appointment.

Why don’t I want to have sex?

Balancing life, work and family, being postpartum and changes to medications—it can all affect your sex drive. Hormonal imbalances like low estrogen or hypothyroidism and plenty of other factors can also do a number on your libido. But it doesn’t have to be forever. Speak up about your sex life, or lack thereof, so your gynecologist can better understand how to help you reignite the flame.

Is it PMS or something more serious?

As the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone take a nosedive each month, it’s common to feel moody. What isn’t normal is being unable to function, feeling depressed and hopeless, or feeling so irritable or rageful that you snap at people. These symptoms can signal premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is treatable, so mention it to your doctor if this sounds like you.

Is sex safe during my period?

If your partner is down with getting physical during your monthly flow, you might be wondering if you should give the green light. For the most part, there’s no medical reason you need to abstain.

What if I’m pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, your doctor can advise you whether it’s safe based on your pregnancy and any existing medical conditions. Generally, normal sexual activity is safe throughout your whole pregnancy.

Why am I itchy down there?

Itchy britches can definitely cause anxiety, and with good reason. Itching can be a telltale sign of STDs or yeast infections—or simply too-tight pants. Because it’s hard to know when you should worry on your own, make sure to let your doctor know what’s been going on, especially if the itching persists after you shower.

Should I be tested for an STD?

If you’re wondering about being tested, it probably means you should be. When you’re sexually active, STDs are a real possibility. In fact, 20 million new STDs occur each year in the U.S. and cause infertility in over 24,000 women when left undiagnosed. If there’s even a chance you could have an STD, let your doctor know. They can recommend testing and treatment.

Should I worry about that painful bump?

First things first—don’t panic. Painful bumps near the vagina or labia are common, and they don’t automatically signal an STD. When a bump pops up down below, it’s often a pimple or ingrown hair (called folliculitis) caused by shaving. But if the bump and pain sticks around more than a few days, be sure to tell your doctor as it could be a cyst, genital warts or herpes.

How do I do a self breast exam?

If you’re not yet paying attention to your breasts, you should. While less than 5% of breast cancer cases in women are under age 40, all women should regularly check their breasts for lumps, bumps and changes, as early breast cancer detection leads to the best outcomes. Your gynecologist can show you the right way to perform a self-exam, and what to look for. And self-exams are easy to work into your self-care routine, such as during your daily shower.

Is it normal to pee when I sneeze or laugh?

The fear of leakage doesn’t have to kill your vibe. While bladder leaks, sometimes called fallen bladder, is common in women who have given birth, bladder issues can cause incontinence in women without children, too. So if you’re peeing when you laugh, sneeze or exercise, know it’s not uncommon and it’s not something you have to live with. Your doctor can help.

If you need answers to these questions or others about your health, we’re here to help.

Call the Kaldas Center at (888) 599-8792.

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13 Important Questions You Wouldn’t Think to Ask Your Gynecologist But Should

Along with dread from the obvious discomfort, the annual trip to the gynecologist is often met with anxiety. Is everything normal down there? Should I be worried about cervical cancer? What’s the deal with that lingering bump? OMG—is it an STI? Speaking up about an itchy bump, strange smell, or a nonexistent libido is no doubt uncomfortable, but gynecologists cannot stress its importance enough. Though it may seem embarrassing, docs ensure us that there is no such thing as a stupid or shocking question when it comes to the health of your lady parts. Here are some important questions gynecologists wish their patients were less reluctant to ask. Take note for your next visit.

“Why am I having such a hard time losing weight?”

At first thought, this might not seem like a question for someone who is an expert in human sexuality, but in many cases your OB/GYN can serve as your primary care provider. “If your BMI is greater than 25, your doctor can discuss possible medical causes and the potential consequences of excess weight to your overall health and risk for certain cancers,” explains Brandye Wilson-Manigat, M.D., an OB-GYN in Pasadena, California. “In addition, he or she may be able to recommend some strategies to increase your metabolism and decrease your weight in a healthy and safe manner.”

“There is cancer in my family. Should I have genetic testing?”

If you have a strong family history of breast, ovarian, uterine, colon, or melanoma this should be reviewed with your doctor. “Based on your personal history or family cancer pattern, genetic screening for cancer-related genes may be offered to help you make decisions about further testing and intervention,” says Kameelah Phillips, M.D., an OB-GYN in New York City. “There are significant implications to this type of testing and your gynecologist can help you make decisions regarding your risk factors.”

“Is my discharge normal?”

This is certainly not the most comfortable topic of conversation, but your gynecologist can help differentiate what’s normal from what’s not better than a quick Google search. “The vagina is equipped with over 30 organisms that help keep it pH balanced and free of infection,” explains Sherry Ross, M.D., an OB-GYN in Santa Monica, California and author of She-ology. “These organisms produce secretions to naturally cleanse the vagina, much like the mouth does with saliva and the eyes do with tears.” Depending on the time of month, it is normal for vaginal discharge to change in consistency, texture, and smell. “It helps to know what your range of ‘normal’ is to avoid the unnecessary use of soaps, douches, and creams meant to correct what you perceive is a problem,” adds Dr. Phillips.

“Is it normal for PMS to cause intense irritability or depression?”

Emotional upheaval is commonly associated with PMS. “Symptoms can include extreme depression, fits of anger and overwhelming anxiety,” says Dr. Ross. “Crying spells, angry outbursts and feelings of worthlessness are all part of the mood swings that typically occur one to two weeks before your period.” If the emotional chaos ends at the start of your period, there is no cause for concern. But if these emotional changes continue beyond your period, Dr. Ross notes that this may suggest more concern of an underlying psychological dysfunction that should be discussed with your doc.

“Do I clean my vagina or not?”

This is one of the most controversial topics when it comes to vaginal health. Shelves are lined with products for feminine hygiene, but we are often told to avoid these aisles and let our lady parts self-cleanse. “You may have heard that the vagina is ‘self-cleaning’ and it sort of is, but using fragrance-free soap and water on the vagina is okay, safe, and recommended,” says Dr. Ross. “As a gynecologist, I suggest that you clean your vulva and labia every day as if it were any other part of your body.” Her suggested method: Using two fingers, swipe your knuckles along the labia with a gentle, non-fragrant soap. Avoid scented cleansers and cloths, freshening sprays and talc powders.

“Where can I find my G-spot?”

“There is an ongoing debate as to whether the G-spot actually exists,” says Dr. Ross. “For those believers, myself included, the G-spot is located one to three inches on the top or anterior surface of the vagina. When a woman is sexually aroused, the G-spot fills with blood, giving it a swollen feeling.” Dr. Ross notes that not all women respond sexually to stimulation of this area, so don’t worry if you’ve tried and failed to locate it. “It is not a magic button, rather another avenue in achieving sexual pleasure,” she says.

“Can I get pimples on my vagina?”

“Like the face, the vagina has sweat glands and hair follicles that are prone to dirt buildup,” explains Dr. Ross. That’s why it’s important to keep the area fresh and dry. Make sure the skin is clean before hair removal, whether you use a razor or wax. To helps prevent acne and ingrown hairs during the regrowth process, exfoliate the skin on the days following hair removal.

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