A visit to the gynecologist is not most women’s favorite thing to do. It’s awkward being naked wearing nothing but a thin gown while perched on an examination table. Most women want to get the appointment over as quickly as possible and bolt out the door.
That’s why it’s so important to find a doctor you trust. If there’s one person you should be able to ask intimate questions, it’s your gynecologist. Finding a gynecologist you feel comfortable with can make all the difference. So, before you say “everything is fine” when asked if there are any problems, here are 8 questions you should consider asking.
- Why is sex sometimes (or always) painful?
Several things can cause pain during intercourse such as an infection, insufficient lubrication due to lack of foreplay or from taking certain medications, conditions like endometriosis, or thinning of the vaginal walls due to hormonal changes during menopause. Lubricants can help with dryness, but if sex is painful, ask your gynecologist to figure out the cause.
- What side effects are linked to my birth control?
Up to 30 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 trained in their knowledge of contraceptives and can be instrumental in finding one that works best for you.
- Why do I leak urine when I cough, laugh or sneeze?
Urinary incontinence is a common but underreported problem among women. This condition can be caused by several different factors; your gynecologist can tell you which one applies specifically to you. Ask your doctor about treatments for urinary incontinence, such as Kegel exercises that help build the pelvic floor muscles.
- Should I take a genetic test before I get pregnant?
The answer to this question is up to each 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.
- What’s normal when it comes to vaginal discharge?
It is considered normal for a woman to have clear or milky-looking discharge. This is the body’s “housekeeping” mechanism, and it flushes old cells from your system. However, a change in volume, color or odor of discharge might not be normal. These could be signs of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, Trichomoniasis or a yeast infection. Bring any changes like these to the attention of your gynecologist.
- How can I assess my breast cancer risk?
Some health professionals use a tool called the Gail model for women over the age of 35. It calculates risk 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 where 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.
- 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 conditions. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.
- Is there a medical reason why my sex drive is so low?
If you used to enjoy sex several times a week but now haven’t been interested in it for months, your gynecologist can help. Possible reasons for lower libido include 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.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook