They’ve heard it all before.
And so, women should feel comfortable talking to and asking questions of their obstetrician/gynecologist. Over the course of a woman’s lifetime, there very likely will be some ‘taboo’ or embarrassing topics that come up. But a good OB/GYN should communicate that what you think might be cringeworthy questions are actually totally appropriate.
Dr. Dipti Patel, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Dreyer Medical Group in North Aurora and St. Charles, Ill., says there is no such thing as an embarrassing topic when it comes to your gynecology visit. She discusses five common questions that women may be hesitant to ask their doctor.
1. Why is there a ‘funny’ smell down there?
According to Dr. Patel, foul-smelling discharge can be a sign of a vaginal infection. These infections can be caused by something as simple as a change in pH or something serious, such as a sexually transmitted infection. She recommends talking to your physician right away about a smell that is abnormal.
2. What should a woman know about the shape, size and color?
The appearance of a woman’s vulva can differ significantly from one person to another.
“The labia minora, which are commonly referred to as the “inner lips,” come in a variety of shapes,” Dr. Patel says. “Some are small and do not protrude past the labia majora, or outer lips; others can be large and protrude beyond the labia majora. Although this may cause some cosmetic concerns, it does not pose any medical issue.”
3. Is vaginal itching normal?
Dr. Patel says that itching is not normal, and can be a sign of a yeast infection.
“Typically, the signs of a yeast infection include itching, thick white discharge or redness,” she says. “Several conditions that can also present with symptoms of itching are lichen sclerosis, lichen simplex and even skin cancer on the vulva.” Dr. Patel says you should be evaluated by your doctor if you have persistent vaginal itching.
4. How much discharge is normal?
The quantity, color and consistency of discharge vary widely from person to person, Dr Patel says.
“Women should see their gynecologist if their discharge has a foul odor or if a rash, vulvar itching or discomfort accompanies it,” she says. “If your discharge is green and frothy, this can be a sign of a vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted disease and a woman should see their doctor immediately.”
5. Is it safe to have sex on your period?
While having sex on your period may be messy, intercourse during menstruation is safe. However, Dr. Patel encourages women to use contraception because it is still possible to become pregnant while on your period. Dr. Patel explains that some women have long periods that can overlap with ovulation. “Sperm can also survive for up to 5 days,” she says.
“Gynecologists specialize in the female reproductive tract,” says Dr. Patel. “We’ve seen and heard it all; No topic should be off limits. Answering questions is what we’re here for.”