Planning a visit to your ob-gyn can bring up a lot of mixed emotions and can make you address topics that aren't the most comfortable to talk about. While an ob-gyn visit can often feel like you're reliving your Tinder hookups — or just a pure inconvenience — these exams are actually beneficial. To find out how to best prepare for our next visit to the OB, POPSUGAR spoke with Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist in New York and author of The Complete A to Z For Your V: A Woman's Guide to Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Vagina. Here's to feeling empowered about your sexual health!
1. Yearly Visits Are Necessary
Dr. Dweck explained that due to the new pap smear guidelines, which state you only need one every three years, a lot of people skip annual exams. "In a routine exam, we are eliciting information about general health. Medications, breast health, menstrual health, contraception, risk prevention when it comes to things like sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, or getting pregnant if people are having trouble." She also shared that many times ob-gyns serve as the primary care doctor for many women who won't see an internist unless something is actually medically wrong with them. A routine exam entails more than your vulva and can help detect and prevent possible problematic issues.
2. Yes, They Do Need to Know If You're Sexually Active
You shouldn't feel ashamed to let your OB know that you're sexually active, and quite frankly letting them know this important detail is very proactive when it comes to your health.
3. They Don't Care How Many Partners You Have
When it comes to talking about how many sexual partners you've had in the past and currently have, things can get uncomfortable — nobody wants to feel like they're being judged! "Nobody really cares how many sexual partners somebody has except for the fact that we're going to counsel you differently if you have more than one partner," says Dr. Dweck. Phew. The counseling will vary person to person but expect discussion to center around infections and the best birth control options. Dr. Dweck shared that if you aren't monogamous and your partner may not be either, you're at risk for infection, and she strongly advises both you and your partner get tested, remain monogamous, or use condoms.
4. But They Do Care About Your Sexual Orientation
Save yourself and your OB some time by letting them know your sexual orientation. If you're in a same-sex relationship, you likely don't need to hear about birth control, but by knowing your sexual orientation, your OB can counsel you appropriately.
5. Wax It, Shave It, Go Au Naturale
We aren't quite sure whether the bush or the completely bare look is in, but regardless, do you. According to Dr. Dweck, the most important thing when it comes to hair removal is to practice safe habits to prevent razor burns and infections, and to use a product like hydrocortisone ointment to prevent ingrown hairs.
6. Douching Is Out
Wanting our lady parts to be in prime condition is understandable, but Dr. Dweck says that "douches are absolutely frowned upon by the traditional medical ob-gyn community," the reason being that douches actually disturb your vagina's natural pH balance, especially when fragrances and products that are chemically heavy are involved. She explained that while someone women won't have any reaction to douches and other hygienic products, some vaginas maybe become irritated or worse, infected.
7. If You're Active, Change Out of Your Wet Clothes ASAP
We've all been guilty of working out and then "running just a few errands" in our workout clothes afterward — not showering until 8 p.m. that evening. While this may seem harmless, our sweat is actually working against us. Dr. Dweck advises changing out of wet workout clothes as soon as possible to cut back on the risk for infection and a pH imbalance. If you can't change your clothes for whatever reason, or simply don't want to, she recommends using a wipe with minimal chemicals from time to time.
8. Discharge Is Normal
If you've ever looked down at your underwear and wondered what the hell is going on and if that mysterious substance is normal, fret no longer — it is. Dr. Dweck explained that "every individual woman has a different amount of discharge — and usually knows what's normal for them." She also explained that your discharge may get a little more noticeable and thick in the midcycle, because you're ovulating, and will change after your period. "If it has blood in it, smells really bad, if it's irritating, or it seems off" Dr. Dweck advises consulting your doctor.
9. Periods + Sex Can Lead to Pregnancy
While this may seem like something you learned in sex-ed, it's important to reiterate: simply put, if you're having sex and you aren't using any contraception, you can get pregnant.