7 Questions That All Women Need to Ask the Gynecologist
No woman actually enjoys her annual visit to the gynecologist, so most ladies speed through the process silently in the hopes of getting out the door as quickly as possible. What this gains in time, it definitely lacks in appointment quality because it doesn’t fully take advantage of the doc’s knowledge. Gynecologists spend years studying the ins and outs of the female reproductive system, which means they have the answers to just about everything. And yes, you really should ask about anything you’re concerned with or need clarified. If you haven’t covered these questions, get ready for a Q&A session the next time you visit your gynecologist.
1. What are my birth control options?
The pill remains the most popular form of birth control in the U.S., but times are changing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female sterilization comes in at a close second. These two methods barely scratch the surface of what’s available, though. Healthline outlines a whole host of options, including injections, patches, IUDs, and more.
That’s not to say the pill isn’t a good choice, but there might be something better suited to your specific situation. Some women find they have trouble remembering to take birth control every day while others have no issues. If you never plan to have children, sterilization might be the better choice. To find out what’s best for you, you need to talk things through with your gynecologist.
2. Why don’t I ever feel in the mood?
Low libido is pretty common, even for young women. And there are a lot of reasons why you might not want to be intimate, ranging from medication interference to a hormonal imbalance. A drop in desire is also pretty common for those going through menopause. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never enjoy sexual activity again, though. Talking with your doctor about how you feel and any specific symptoms will help pinpoint what might be wrong, enabling them to make appropriate recommendations.
3. How do I perform a self breast exam?
If the only time you ever get a breast exam is at your annual appointment, you’re putting your health at risk. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women. Mammograms usually aren’t necessary for women under age 40 (more on this in a bit), but even young women wind up with the disease. Since early detection is the best defense against cancer, you really need to know how to check for irregularities on your own.
If you’re at all unsure about how to perform an exam by yourself, just ask your gynecologist. He or she will be happy to walk you through the steps. You can also check out some pointers from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. And remember, this should be a monthly self-exam.
4. Should I be worried about irregular periods?
In most cases, a menstrual cycle that doesn’t stick to a rigid, 28-day schedule is just fine. Women to Women says even a missed period or two isn’t typically a cause for concern. The story also explains a lot of lifestyle factors can influence your cycle. Even stress makes a difference. These issues are usually easier to manage, so that’s where your doctor is going to start.
If your ob-gyn rules out the usual suspects, he or she may want to look into conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome or a hormonal imbalance. For the latter, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills.
5. What screenings or tests should I get?
Everything from age to your sexual history plays into the specific tests you need to get. For example, pap smears are usually required once every three years. If you have an abnormal screening, though, your doctor will likely recommend getting a follow-up pap in the near future. Specifics also matter for mammograms. There’s some disagreement among different organizations about the ideal time to begin screening for breast cancer, but Mayo Clinic recommends age 40. Even still, this depends. According to a piece penned by Dr. Stacey Vitiello, who specializes in breast imaging, women with a strong family history may need to start even younger.
And don’t forget about STI screenings. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women under the age of 24 should be checked annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea, but also acknowledged this varies for individuals. The recommendations are helpful, but they make assumptions about sexual behavior as it relates to age, so you really need to get specific guidelines from your doctor. This means you have to be honest with any and all questions he or she asks you.
6. What can I do to prevent leakage?
Usually considered a problem only mothers experience, urinary incontinence can also strike women who’ve never been pregnant. One Australian study found the condition may affect up to 13% of women who’ve never given birth. While it might be an embarrassing topic, it’s one every gynecologist has talked about before. The simplest solution is usually performing kegel exercises, but surgery may be required in some cases.
7. Is there anything I can do to minimize pain during sex?
The answer to this question is usually yes, but it depends on your specific circumstances. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports three out of every four women will experience painful intercourse at some point during her life, and the list of possible reasons is pretty lengthy. In order to pin down what could be amiss, you’ll have to chat with your ob-gyn about the exact pain you feel. In some cases, the solution may be as simple as using a lubricant to minimize dryness.
For some women, the problem is more complex. Everyday Health explains pain during sex is very common for women with endometriosis, a condition where the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside the uterus. Again, you have to start a conversation with your doctor before considering treatment options.
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