9 Questions You've Been Afraid to Ask Your Gynecologist but Absolutely Should
Gynecologists are there for everything from period questions to sexual health issues, but sometimes we are too shy to ask the questions that need to be asked. We talked to a few well-known women's and sexual health experts and asked the questions they wished their patients would be asking a lot more often, and why.
How do I do a self breast exam?
We should be doing self exams regularly, but we sometimes don't know how and are afraid to ask. "Doctors often ask women if they are performing at-home breast exams on themselves. I'm often met with a quick 'yep' in response," says Tara Nayak, ND, a naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Philadelphia. "However, I really hope that women that have never been taught will ask their docs and lead the charge for early detection!"
My sex life is becoming awkward or painful, what should I do?
Sexual anxiety, pain, or discomfort — or lack of desire — are awkward to talk about but important to discuss. "I wish more of my patients felt comfortable asking about painful intercourse and problems with sexual desire and climax," says San Diego-based gynecologist Christine Sterling. "Forty percent of women have sexual concerns, but very few bring it to the attention of their ob/gyn. We have resources to offer and knowledge to impart but many are too nervous to ask," says Sterling.
Is it normal to leak urine?
No, urinary incontinence or leaking is not normal but it does happen. "Although not usually a serious condition, it can significantly affect quality of life," says Gerardo Bustillo, MD, OB/GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. The most common reasons include an overactive bladder and anatomical changes that are correctable with minor surgery or use of a pessary, he says.
Why is my vagina so dry?
"Vaginal dryness is most often the result of insufficient estrogen effect on the vaginal wall and is quite common in menopause," says Dr. Bustillo. "There are a variety of potential treatments, including lubricants, local estrogen treatment to the vagina (in the form of creams, vaginal pills, or a vaginal estrogen ring), and an oral estrogen pill, which targets primarily the vaginal lining, while not stimulating other tissues such as the breasts. There is also a vaginal laser procedure called Mona Lisa Touch, which is effective and drug-free," says Dr. Bustillo.
Is it normal to have less interest in sex as I become older?
As women age, sexual interest may normally diminish. This may not cause a problem in the relationship, if the woman's partner has a decreased libido as well. "If the woman's partner continues to have a strong sex drive, this may cause tension in the relationship — in this situation, communication between the partners is key. Discussing this with the gynecologist may offer some solutions," says Dr. Bustillo.
Is my vagina supposed to look like this?
"I've discovered that many women have concerns about the appearance of their vulva and vagina," says Dr. Sterling. "I wish more women would express their concerns so that we could offer them reassurance. I've had a number of patients tell me that they have been concerned for years about the shape, color, or contour of their labia before bringing it up in a visit," says Dr. Sterling.
Why does sperm fall out after sex?
This is, it seems, gravity at work. "What comes out is semen, the extra fluid that doesn't make a difference in getting pregnant," says Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, reproductive health expert. "The sperm cells swim upstream into the cervical canal into the uterus."
Can a man hurt a baby with his penis during pregnancy?
Ask your doctor this question, and don't be afraid. "There are patients who should not have sex during pregnancy (with a known placenta previa, for example)," says Dr. Eyvazzadeh. So get your doctor's prescription for sex during pregnancy. And if they say no, ask about orgasms. Outercourse never hurt a baby!
Are having sexual dreams during pregnancy normal?
Yes! You're a raging hormone machine. "It's very normal, especially in the beginning, to notice a change in your sexual desires and even dreams," says Dr. Eyvazzadeh.