Take notes on these for the next time you see your doctor.
Going to the doctor isn’t a particularly pleasant experience, and less so when private matters such as sex, genitals, or periods are part of the discussion, as it happens when you visit your gynecologist. However, these matters are all part of our general well-being, so it’s important to be honest about them with our OB/GYN, especially if we have a question or notice something we consider unusual in our body. The thing is that, because we’re dealing with issues that aren’t openly discussed, not to mention that we’re barely taught about them, we might be worried about things that might be completely normal or ignore signs that might indicate more serious diseases. Ironically, that lack of openness makes it even more difficult for us to ask the questions we should make when we need it, most likely because we might find them too embarrassing. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t forget that our gynecologists are specialists who are used to these matters, so they won’t judge you, but rather enlighten you about any doubts you might have about your body and tell you the best way to lead a healthy life. So, here are some of the questions OB/GYNs are most frequently asked that you should know or ask the next time you go.
“Why do I have hair on my breasts?”
While not everyone has hair on their breasts, there are hair follicles in that area that can make a random hair grow there every now and then, especially if there are hormonal changes in your body. According to Sherry Ross MD, OB/GYN and women’s health expert from Santa Monica, “If you are getting random hairs around your nipples you might also notice hair growth on your chin and face. Some people are more prone to this than others. Puberty, pregnancy and menopause are times when hormonal changes are more physically noticeable." But if you’re still worried about this, you can ask your gyno whether there’s a hormonal imbalance and if you should treat it.
“Is it normal for my vagina to smell like this?”
Yes, all vaginas have particular odors, and that’s completely normal. And no, that odor isn’t rose scented or Chanel n.º 5. However, there are certain smells that do indicate bacterial infections, especially if they're fishy or yeasty, or if they appear with unusual discharges. While your gynecologist will tell you the best way to treat these smells, you can take care of yourself and prevent infections by wearing cotton underwear and loose clothes. Moreover, it’s also likely that you might perceive a change in those odors if you’re on your period or if you’ve eaten particular foods that affect the chemical balance of your vagina, like garlic, onions, or coffee.
“Do I have a normal vagina?”
This is one of the greatest insecurities people with a vagina often have, especially because there isn’t really a point of comparison to determine that. However, just like your arms, fingers, feet, or your nose are different from others, the same happens with vulvas and vaginas. There isn’t a single “normal” vagina: they are all different and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
“What should discharge look like?”
While discharge is completely normal, if it comes with a foul smell or in colors other than white or light yellow, they might signal an infection. According to Diana MD, of Spectrum Health Medical Group, Women’s Health Network, there are other external factors that may affect the consistency and color of the discharge, like the food you eat, your sexual activity, if you work out, the use of soaps or antibiotics, among other similar factors. However, the best thing is to tell your doctor about it, so they can treat it in case it is an actual infection.
“Is it normal to have pimples down there?”
Since your labia are covered with skin, just as you might have a pimple on your face, the same might happen down there. These are more likely to happen if you wax or shave your pubic hair. Nevertheless, if you notice some abnormal bump on your vagina or labia and it is painful or too uncomfortable, you should let your doctor check it to discard any infection or STD. Dr. Sarah Crane (OB/GYN with Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts) recommends that if you detect any abnormal pimple, it’s better to avoid having sex until you visit your health provider.
“Why am I having irregular periods?”
There are many factors that might affect your menstrual cycle, like medications, birth control pills, exercising, changing your diet, or even stress. Nonetheless, there are other changes that might point to a more serious condition, like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or uterine fibroids. However, these last conditions come with other symptoms such as painful periods and sex, or constant need to urinate.
“How can I keep my vagina clean?”
For decades, douching was a recommended method to keep your vulva and vagina clean. Nevertheless, the alleged benefits of this method have been debunked, and now doctors suggest avoiding douching, because it could affect the pH balance of your vagina. However, there are ways to keep this area clean, like cleaning it with water while you shower and letting air flow down there (wearing dresses or loose pants is sure to help).
Your body isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and your doctor is well aware of that. While this is a compilation of some of the most common questions that OB/GYNs are asked, it’s better for you to ask them yourself in your next visit. The best way to start clearing any doubts and erase the embarrassing factor on our bodies is by openly discussing these matters with our doctor.
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Photos by Angie López