Important questions women should ask about their sexual health
By The Mommy Docs
Even the most self-assured, confident women sometimes feel uncomfortable discussing the intimate matters related to women's health.
Certain questions can make women feel bashful, and we have noticed in our practice that these questions are often saved until the very last minutes of a visit. We tend to call these the "out-the-door" questions -- those that get blurted out as if an after-thought.
While this hesitation is understandable, you should know that as OB/GYNs, we have pretty much seen it all when it comes to women's health.
Your doctor is there to help you and he/she is not going to be grossed out, surprised or judgmental -- whatever your issue! Although you may be experiencing something unfamiliar, uncomfortable or embarrassing, you should know that your doctor's office is a safe place where you are encouraged to have open, honest conversations about your health.
So, what are some of the most common "out-the-door" question's we've heard in our practice?
Are my labia normal? More than a few women have this question, and the answer is almost always, yes. Just as we all look different, so do our vaginas. Varied size, shape and color of labia are all common, as are uneven colors and textures. The best way to ensure optimal health is to become familiar with yourself -- use a hand mirror to observe how your vagina looks. This way, you will be able to notice any changes or irregularities that should be brought to your doctor's attention.
What is that bump? If you do notice an unfamiliar bump on your vagina, don't panic. Women can develop a variety of bumps on their labia and vagina, but most bumps aren't serious. Some common types of bumps are skin tags, small cysts, or instances of folliculitis -- minor skin infections near hair follicles. That said, you should always ask your doctor to take a look at anything new as some STDs, like genital warts or herpes, may also present as small bumps.
Is it a yeast infection... or something worse? Women sometimes confuse the symptoms of a yeast infection with those of an STD, especially if they have recently had unprotected sex. While a yeast infection can easily be treated with an over-the-counter option(s), STDs can call for more aggressive treatment and can pose long term health hazards if left untreated. If you think you could have been exposed to an STD or are experiencing abnormal symptoms, be open and honest with your doctor so you can get to the bottom of the problem.
Additionally, we always recommend that women and their partners should both be tested for STDs before having sex for the first time.
Is anal sex safe? Anal sex can be safe, but there are several things you should know before trying it. First of all, never have anal sex directly followed by vaginal sex, as this can transfer bacteria to the vagina. Realize that the rectum is not designed for intercourse. It is not as elastic as the vagina and doesn't produce lubrication like the vagina, so it can tear. That said, anal sex can be safe when women are fully aroused, the anal sphincter is relaxed, and artificial lubrication is used generously on the penis and in and around the anus.
It is not uncommon for women to experience light anal bleeding for one to two days following anal sex, usually indicating a minor tear inside the rectum, which is not serious. However, any prolonged or heavy bleeding should be brought to your doctor's attention.
These are just a few of the many questions we find our patients have trouble addressing with us. If you have a questions or concerns that aren't addressed above, we encourage you to talk to your doctor -- that's what she's there for!
The Mommy Docs are practicing OB/GYNs and stars in the hit show "Deliver Me," airing daily on Discovery Fit and Health, in addition to a new series in development. The Docs are also authors of The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.
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