The gynecologist, the unsung hero on your journey through womanhood. From contraceptive options, periods, pregnancy and all the way to menopause, the vaginal Sherpa will guide you through each stage of your menstrual Odyssey. Here are ten things your gynecologist thinks you should know.
Weird Smells Are Not Normal
Unusual scents wafting from your nether regions can be a real sign that something is afoot. Granted there is the possibility that it's just the result of hormonal changes during different stages of your menstrual cycle. The number one person who should be paying attention to your body is you. So if you do notice that there is a peculiar odor, book an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as possible. Be sure to let them know if you're suffering from any other symptoms because it might be nothing, or it might just be an STD or even a bacterial infection. Remember, you never know unless you go.
Neither is Itchiness
An itchy crotch is generally a sign that something is amiss in that area. Yes, there is always the possibility that it's just a reaction to your new shower gel, or that your hair has grown back after a shave. However, if the itching is extreme or worse, verging on burning, DO NOT ignore! If you happen to be sexually active, getting an STD check at your OBGYN is a good way of getting to the bottom of what is going on. You should know that itchiness can be caused by a bacterial infection, many of which carry the same symptoms as STDs. You may need anything from a bucket of yogurt to a prescription for antibiotics to soothe the itch.
Everyone's Discharge is Different
Secretions from your vagina are completely normal. Basically, discharge is what your lady bits excrete after your vagina cleans itself. While some women only have discharge at different points in your menstrual cycle, others have discharge every day. Under normal circumstances, discharge is clear or cloudy white. The consistency and amount produced will vary from woman to woman, while still being normal for each. Discharge generally increases as a result of hormonal changes like pregnancy, menopause, and ovulation. As with everything, if there is a sudden change in color, consistency, or odor, go get it checked out.
PMS Symptoms Are Unpleasant
Yes, even the "normal" ones. A third of all women suffer from PMS, a condition that causes hormones to go haywire in the period, if you will, before menstruation. There are a few women who will be fortunate enough to have less severe symptoms, however, many more have to deal with a truckload of issues like bloating, acne, headaches and mood swings. Periods aren't exactly the most comfortable of experiences at the best of times, and PMS symptoms certainly don't help matters. PMS can be devastating and anxiety inducing but just remember it's absolutely normal and you're not going nuts. If PMS is getting you down try some gentle exercise, or meditation to reduce stress. Adding red meat, yogurt, and chamomile tea to your diet can also help battle the symptoms of PMS.
Your Biological Clock Doesn't Stop at 30
Another common misconception is that once you hit thirty, you are past the point where you can conceive, this is not the case. Sure fertility rates start dropping off from the mid-thirties onwards, with many fertility issues increasing at a quicker rate than during your late twenties/early thirties. Do not be disheartened, with a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you could still conceive naturally and have a safe pregnancy into your late forties.
Mountains and Molehills
It is all too easy to freak out if you find an unusual bump down there, resulting in three hours scouring through Web MD trying to self-diagnose between cancer, genital warts, or a rare Guatemalan bug laying eggs under your skin. Take a deep breath and remember that the majority of lumps and bumps that grow in your lady garden are the result of poor maintenance. Lack of hygiene, poor shaving practices or that skinny jean addiction that you have could all be potential culprits. Ingrown hairs and pimples will happen every now and again but resist the urge to pick at or pop anything, as you could just make matters worse and cause an infection. If things do get worse or the bump hasn't gone after two weeks then it's time to make an appointment.
HPV Doesn't Just Spread Via Sex
The human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections in the United States, with approximately 80% of women contracting the virus. It's a common misconception that HPV can only be contracted through sexual intercourse, although that is typically how it spreads, it can be passed on by any skin on skin contact. The majority of pap smears do not include HPV tests, so you may have to ask your gynecologist for one. This is extremely important as high levels of HPV can indicate cervical cell abnormalities including cervical cancer.
Low Libido Isn't The Result of Low Hormones
A high sex drive is usually because of a peak in testosterone levels, however, hormones are not always to blame where the libido is concerned. Many factors can reduce your cravings for mattress gymnastics, from medications, especially anti-depressants, or medical conditions including diabetes, anxiety or high blood pressure. Fatigue or exhaustion are also prime offenders for causing a low sex drive.
A Change in Pap Test Frequency
Before 2012 it was recommended that women receive a Pap smear test annually, now the time interval has been adjusted to every 3-5 years. The revision was made as many medical groups believe that too many smear tests so close together can cause false positives resulting in medical interventions that may not be required. However, this is only the case for women who have had normal Pap smears. If you have had HPV or an abnormal smear test then you may have to get tested every six months. If you aren't sure about how frequent your tests should be, it's best to have a discussion with your gynecologist.
It can be awkward or embarrassing to discuss your sexual history or that time you peed in the woods and accidentally wiped yourself with poison ivy, but you need to know that your gynecologist is a doctor, they won't judge you. Whether you have had 700 sexual partners or none at all, you need to tell your OBGYN so they can treat you properly. There is a reason they say that honesty is the best policy. If you're open and honest, it makes it much easier to counsel you and helps getting to the root cause of any problem that much simpler. Gynecologists are there to help you, so if you feel that you are being disrespected or judged, then jump ship and find yourself a new doctor.