Important questions all women should ask their gynecologist
A visit to the gynecologist is not at the top of the list of favorite things to do for most women. It’s awkward enough having to get naked wearing a thin gown while perched on an examining table. Most women simply want to get the appointment over as quickly as possible and bolt out the door.
First and foremost, it’s important to find a doctor you trust. If there’s one person you should be able to ask intimate questions candidly after all, it’s your gynecologist. Finding a gynecologist you feel comfortable around can make all the difference in being open and honest with them. So, before you say “everything is fine” when asked if there are any problems, here are some questions that you may want to ask:
1. Why is sex sometimes (or always) painful?
There can be several things that cause pain during intercourse such as an infection, insufficient lubrication due to lack of foreplay or from taking certain medications, to conditions like endometriosis or thinning of the vaginal walls due to hormonal changes during menopause. Lubricants can help with dryness but painful or uncomfortable sex is a question to ask of your gynecologist to figure out the cause and how to treat it.
2. What side effects are linked to my birth control?
Up to thirty percent of women using the pill quit because of side effects such as nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, mood changes or a drop in libido. Women using copper IUD’s frequently have increased menstrual pain and bleeding during the first months of use. It may take a bit of time to find the right birth control but don’t settle if it’s causing you pain or grief. Gynecologists are specifically trained in their knowledge of contraceptives and can be a huge help in finding one that works best for you.
3. Why do I leak urine when I cough, laugh or sneeze?
Urinary incontinence is a common but underreported problem in women. This condition can be caused by several different factors that really need the attention of your gynecologist to seek the answer. Ask your doctor about treatments for urinary incontinence such as Kegel exercises that help build up the pelvic floor muscles.
4. Should I take a genetic test before I get pregnant?
The answer to this question is really up to each individual woman and her partner. There are carrier screenings using blood or saliva that can help predict if you or your partner has a possibility of passing on a genetic mutation such as cystic fibrosis, fragile X syndrome, or sickle cell disease. A gynecologist can refer you to a genetic counselor that can help sort out the pros and cons of what to do.
5. What’s normal when it comes to vaginal discharge?
It is considered normal for a woman to have clear or milky-looking discharge and is usually not a cause for concern. This is the body’s regular “housekeeping” mechanism, helping to flush old cells from your system. But there can be times when there is a change in discharge that is not normal such as an unusually high volume or changes in color or odor. These could be signs of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, Trichomoniasis, or a yeast infection. Any changes like these to be brought to the attention of your gynecologist.
6. How can I assess my breast cancer risk?
There is a tool called the Gail model that some health professionals use for women over the age of 35. It calculates risks based on factors like family history, race, and what age you were when you got your first period. There is an online version at cancer.gov women can take on their own. No matter what your risk level, always tell your doctor if you notice any lumps, swelling, redness, nipple discharge or changes in breast size.
7. Why are my periods so heavy?
Every woman’s period is different so it can be hard to know what is normal. Heavy bleeding that lasts more than a week and necessitates you doubling up on pads/tampons and changing them every couple of hours is called menorrhagia. Depending on your age, heavy bleeding can mean your body is getting ready for menopause or it could be a sign of uterine fibroids or other health condition. The best way to know what is going on is to contact your doctor who can discover the cause of this.
8. Is there a medical reason why my sex drive is so low?
If you have been enjoying sex several times a week but now haven’t been interested in it for months or having trouble becoming aroused, your gynecologist can help. They can help identify what is crushing your libido such as a possible sexually transmitted infection, fibroids, diabetes, high blood pressure or depression. If testing is done for these medical conditions but nothing is found, then a referral to a therapist may be in order to help you spot and overcome relationship issues or stress, both of which can ruin your sex drive.