Scheduling an annual visit with your OB-GYN is just as important as seeing your general practitioner. Not only is it a form of preventative medicine, but it gives you the opportunity to ask your OB-GYN any questions you may have.
"We can't buy another life, so it's important to ask questions in order to maintain this one,"Christine Greves, an OB-GYN at Orlando Health in Orlando, Florida told INSIDER. "No question is a bad question if you want to learn about your body. That's what we are here for."
While you may feel silly talking to your OB-GYN about any vaginal or reproductive concerns, keeping the lines of communication open and clear is imperative to your health. Go ahead and schedule your yearly checkup with your OB-GYN, but not before you take a look at these questions you should be asking your during your next visit.
Is my period normal?
First, no two periods are the same. That said, you should always ask your OB-GYN questions about your period, especially if it causes disruptions in your life.
"If someone is wondering, 'Is it normal for me to bleed through my underwear when I'm on my period?' or, 'Is it normal for me to have spotting in between my period and mess up my white pants?' the answer is no, it's not OK, because it's distressing your quality of life," Greves said.
Should I be experiencing pain in my vagina?
The short answer is no. If you are having pains of any kind in your pelvis or vaginal area, let your doctor know. It may be a sign of a serious underlying issue that needs to be checked out by an expert like your OB-GYN.
"If you have pain, you've got to ask about it," says Greves. "Whether it's in the lower pelvis area or it's on one side or the other, or maybe it's in the middle - You have to ask about that so it can get properly evaluated. It's not normal to have pain all of the time and that's something that needs to be talked about."
What birth control is right for me?
The Guttmacher Institute found that 99 per cent of sexually active US women, ages 15 to 44, have used at least one contraceptive method. Keeping this statistic in mind, it probably seems like all of your female pals are on some form of birth control - and that's most likely true. But, what works for one woman might not work for another, so it's important to talk to your OB-GYN about the best birth control option for you.
Greves suggested thinking about your long-term plan when it comes to birth control.
"Do you want birth control for a year before you try to conceive, or do you want more lasting birth control like a long-active reversible contraceptive like an IUD?" says Greves. "There's also permanent sterilization. Talk to your doctor to determine what form of birth control fits in best with your lifestyle and future plans."
Why am I'm not as into sex as I used to be?
Sexual health is important but it can be one of the more uncomfortable topics to bring up to your OB-GYN. Your sexual desire can vary due to hormones, medicines, stress, and other factors that impact your day-to-day life. Having an open discussion with your OB-GYN can help you get to the root of the problem and come up with a solution to help increase your sex drive.
"Oftentimes patients ask, 'Is it OK that my sexual desire has changed over time' or 'Why am I having pain during intercourse?'" Greves said. "These are questions that some people may feel shy about asking, but that's what we are here for. These are everyday questions that we want to know so that we can help you."
Why does my vagina look different?
Maybe you look at your vagina every day or maybe you explore it on a less frequent basis. Whatever the case, you should be checking it out often enough to notice any significant changes. If you notice anything new in your private area, like bumps, new moles, or if things change colours, those are all things your OB-GYN should be made aware of, according to Greves.
My vaginal discharge smells. Do I have an infection?
Three out of four women will get a yeast infection during their lifetime, according to the Office On Women's Health. If you've had one before, you know they are fairly common and can typically be treated with over-the-counter products. If you have frequent yeast infections or your vaginal discharge is a different colour than normal, your body might be telling you something.
"If you have itching or a new odor, that's something your OB needs to know about," says Greves. "If your discharge is white and resembles cottage cheese and you have itching, then that can be indicative of a yeast infection. But, if you have green frothy discharge, this can possibly be a sign of trichomonas."
Greves also says that if you have vaginal pain and discharge, you need to schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN as soon as possible because it could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease. Your doctor will diagnose the issue at hand and prescribe a treatment plan.
Do I need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases if I've had the same partner?
Even if you've had the same sexual partner for a long period of time, it never hurts to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The same can also be said when you acquire a new sexual partner. Your OB-GYN is here to make sure you maintain optimum vaginal and reproductive health, which ultimately keeps your entire body working properly.
"We want to do a test for sexually transmitted infections. It's very important to do and is relatively easy to test for," Greves said. "If a patient does have an infection, it's imperative that we treat it quickly. Half the time women can have infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, for example, and not even know it."
I want to start a family soon. What preemptive steps should I take?
Are you trying to conceive right away or a few years down the road? Talk to your doctor about your family planning timeline.
"I usually recommend starting prenatal vitamins three months before they start trying. This way the woman can get enough folic acid in their system," Greves said.
There are some medications, like certain psychiatric pills or an ACE inhibitor for congestive heart failure, that aren't OK to be on while pregnant.
"It's always good to be prepared to get off those medications if you are anticipating trying to get pregnant," Greves said. "Don't be shy about asking those questions either."
Do I need to get an HPV shot?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) infects14 million people each year, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, nearly one in four people have the HPV virus. While the symptoms don't often manifest into anything serious, HPV can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women. You've probably heard about the HPV shots from an advertisement on TV or online, but should you get it?
"Certain women that are more at risk than others for getting high-risk HPV," says Greves, who was happy to see the shot approved. "Ask your OB and inquire about it. It just depends on where someone is in their life. It's always a good idea to have an open and honest discussion with your OB-GYN."