While the annual visit to the gynecologist is a necessary part of caring for your health, it generally isn’t something we women eagerly await each year. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, so it’s often difficult to speak up – or even remember your questions – during the exam. However, your doctor can be one of the best resources for information on how to avoid health problems (and thus avoid even more visits to the GYN). Here are seven big questions you should ask your gynecologist at your next appointment.
1. What tests or screenings should I have this year?
Depending on your age, sexual history, and other risk factors your doctor will recommend different tests, but you shouldn’t assume that your doctor is automatically testing you for everything you need. Asking your doctor “What tests should I have at my age?” can be a good start to your annual exam. The doctor will ask you details about your cycle, symptoms related to your period, and your sexual history. Some tests, like a mammogram to check for breast cancer, aren’t recommended until after a certain age; others, like Pap smears to test for cervical cancer, should be done every 3 years. Being direct with your doctor and asking for specifics on your treatment is important not only to make sure you’re getting the care you need, but also to ensure that you are aware of your own health risks.
2. What about fertility?
Fertility is a large part of why most women visit the gynecologist in the first place. Whether you’re getting your first prescription for birth control, considering your first child, or experiencing menopause you should talk to your doctor about your fertility. Give her an idea of your goals for a family or your concerns about reaching menopause. She will be able to answer your questions and help you plan for all of these situations. All you have to do is ask!
3. How do I do a self-breast exam?
We often ignore our breasts; they’re always there, sometimes they’re an asset, sometimes they’re in the way. But every woman should be aware of what’s normal for her breasts – how they look and how they feel – because one day there might be a lump that wasn’t there before. Breast cancer is a real threat and it’s something you should be vigilant about. Your doctor should check your breasts herself during the exam but while she does, have her explain the process to you and ask her to teach you how to do it yourself.
4. Why does sex sometimes hurt?
Pain during intercourse is a surprisingly common issue, but women often believe it’s a normal part of sex they just have to deal with. However, discomfort during sex can be part of an underlying condition, like infection, vaginismus, or endometriosis . Even menopause can cause issues with pain. Sometimes the solution is as simple as using a good feminine moisturizer but it’s important to keep your doctor informed about any new symptoms related to your intimate health. You can find out more about pain during sex here.
5. When should I worry about itching down there?
Many women automatically assume that their vaginal itching or burning is related to yeast infections and spend unnecessary time and money on over the counter treatments that don’t solve the problem. Infection is a possibility, but so are allergies to soaps or even toilet paper or the fabric of your underwear. Menopause could also be the culprit, as your estrogen levels decrease vaginal tissue becomes thinner and drier, which can cause irritation. If you notice an increase in itchiness don’t hide it from your doctor, she’ll be able to help you find the source of the problem and suggest the correct treatment. You can read our full article on all the reasons you might be experiencing an itch that just wont quit.
6. Why am I leaking urine when I laugh/cough/sneeze?
Often problems with incontinence are related to weak pelvic floor muscles – which are responsible for supporting your organs and help you control your bladder and bowel movements. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – at least 1/3 of women experience a pelvic floor disorder in their lifetime – but it is NOT something you just have to live with. Women of all ages have issues with incontinence: from new mothers to women nearing menopause. Talking to your gynecologist can help you stop leaks and take control over your pelvic health. There are some very simple solutions to incontinence, from changing your habits to strengthening your pelvic floor, or even medication, and your doctor should be happy to go over the options with you.
7. How do I do a correct Kegel exercise?
Learning to exercise your pelvic floor is one of the most important preventative measures you can take for your intimate health. Even if you aren’t experiencing leaks or don’t plan on having children right now, integrating Kegels into your daily routine can help you avoid major health problems in the future.
Now, you might be thinking “I already know how to do a Kegel contraction!” but recent studies have found that nearly 50% of women have trouble isolating the pelvic floor muscles with just written instructions. Your doctor can help you find the right muscles and make sure that you’re doing the exercises correctly. They can also help you plan a routine or advise you on the best exerciser to help you build strength and improve your pelvic health.
These are all important questions that can help open the dialogue between you and your doctor and, if you’re not already, make you more comfortable discussing your intimate health with her. If you have specific concerns or symptoms you should also bring those to her attention. And remember, your gynecologist is a medical doctor, it’s her job to answer questions about women’s bodies so don’t be embarrassed!
Watch to see these women discover the benefits of Kegels
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.