8 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Her Ob/Gyn
Chances are, you’ve already consulted your Ob/Gyn about some very important matters. You may have discussed the importance of getting regular Pap smears to detect abnormal cells that could develop into cervical cancer. You may have discussed your birth control choices and your plans for having or not having a baby. Hopefully, you’ve also discussed the best plan for you when it comes to getting mammograms.
You should definitely keep those issues on the forefront of your mind. But your doctor is also prepared to discuss many other questions with you. Don’t be embarrassed to ask, either. Your doctor has seen or heard it all.
A clear or milky discharge is perfectly normal and healthy. It’s your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean by sweeping out old cells. It may get thicker when you ovulate or you’re sexually stimulated. However, be on the lookout for changes in the volume, color or smell of discharge. If you notice these, contact your doctor for an evaluation.
For feminine itching or smell, don’t reach for a douche. Persistent or intense itching may mean you have an infection, such as a yeast infection. Foul-smelling discharge could also indicate an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. These infections require medications to clear them. Using a douche won’t cure your infection. Instead, it could aggravate your already-irritated vagina and spread infection into your uterus. See your doctor for appropriate treatment.
Heavy bleeding can be bleeding for too long—more than a week. Or, it can be doubling up on sanitary protection or changing it often—every couple of hours, even at night. This is menorrhagia. Depending on your age, it can signal that your body is gearing up for menopause. Your doctor may want to run some tests to rule out other problems, like uterine fibroids. He or she may also suggest trying hormonal birth control or a surgical procedure that will restore a fresh endometrial cell lining to the uterus.
You definitely don’t want to ignore the possibility of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Left untreated, they can lead to serious health problems, such as cancer or pelvic inflammatory disease. What’s more, some STIs don’t have noticeable symptoms. If you’re sexually active, ask your doctor about screening for STIs. The tests you need depend your sexual history as well as your partner’s. Be honest about it so your doctor has an accurate picture of your risks.
Pelvic pain can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including both gynecologic and non-gynecologic problems. For example, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, scar tissue, or adhesions can cause pain. Or it could signal a problem with other organs, such as the bladder or intestines. Your Ob/Gyn is the place to start to get to the bottom of pelvic pain. If it’s gynecologic, he or she may suggest treatment. If not, your doctor may refer you to another provider.
If sex is painful, don’t suffer in silence—definitely talk with your doctor about it. There are a number of possible causes of dyspareunia, or pain during sex. Yeast infections can make sex painful for some women, as can muscle spasms called vaginismus. Also, falling levels of estrogen during menopause can cause vaginal dryness and pain during sex. Up to 45% of menopausal women suffer from this to some degree. But there are solutions, so talk with your doctor.
Menopause typically starts around age 50 or 51, but some women experience it sooner. You’ll go through perimenopause first—a time when you may have irregular periods. You might have other symptoms, too, like hot flashes and mood swings as your hormone levels change. Once you’ve gone an entire year without a period, that’s confirmed menopause. Talk with your doctor throughout this transition. You’ll still need his or her care after menopause.
Your sex drive fluctuates over the course of your life. It can be related to major life changes and hormone changes. But if it’s been low for some time and is really bothering you, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may want to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to the problem. For example, depression can reduce your desire to have sex, as can certain medications. There are treatments, such as hormone therapy, other types of medicines, and counseling.