What kinds of things should I talk to my gyno about?
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
These days, your gyno is going to talk to you about sexually transmitted infections even if you’re in a long-term, stable, monogamous relationship. That’s because so many of these infections are viruses that can be dormant or latent for many years. Plus an STIs like HPV can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
Aches and pains or concerns
Ask your doc about anything that’s of concern whenever you want, but be sure to tell her when something has happened a repeated number of times, Brasner says. Although there may be no need for an expensive workup, it’s important that the problem is addressed and monitored so both you and your doc can get a better idea of what’s going on down there. If you have an acute pain or urgent question, don’t hesitate to call. Many times the office will be able to screen over the phone the need for an immediate visit. For example, says Brasner, if someone has symptoms of a urinary tract infection, she shouldn’t wait an extra day. Speak with a doctor to see if a visit is necessary or if it’s something that can be handled on your own or over the phone.
Gynecologists sometimes take on the role of an overall women’s health expert, and some ladies see their gyno and no one else. “I talk to my patients about their sleep habits or exercise habits, because even though I may not be an expert in those fields, I have a network of colleagues I can refer my patients to,” says Brasner. Plus, more than any other kind of doctor, a gynecologist also deals the most with urinary problems. If you have a urinary issue, or suspect you have a urinary tract infection, call your gyno first.
How much info is too much to disclose about my sexual partners?
It is critical to discuss your sexual partners. “I need to know the health of the relationship, if you have suspicions of infidelity, if you have been unfaithful, and how many partners you have, and I need honest answers in terms of safe sex versus unsafe sex,” says Brasner. Your gyno appointment is not the time to feel embarrassed and withhold information. Remember, there’s nothing you can say that your doc hasn’t heard before. A gynecologist isn’t there to pass judgment, and you have to be willing to talk about things.
How will I know if my exam results are normal?
First, ask for feedback during any phase of the exam. “When I’m doing an exam, I may forget to let my patient know that her breast exam is completely normal. It’s absolutely fine for her to ask if everything feels right,” Brasner says. Also, clarify how the results from your exam will be communicated. Every office has its own policy. Sometimes you will be given a code to check online in a couple weeks, and sometimes you will be told that you’ll get a call from the office only if something showed up abnormal on your Pap or other tests.
Is there anything I shouldn’t ask or tell my gyno?
Don’t ask your gyno about your best friend’s health issues. Although you may be concerned about your pal, the time you have with your doctor is all about you, so you want to make the most of your time. Yes, your gyno will want to know if you have a lot of stress at work, but she can’t sit with you to discuss your awful boss. If you have other things you want to discuss that are not typical for a checkup, ask if it is appropriate to set up another appointment.
Do I have to get completely naked for the exam?
Actually, no. You can leave your socks on, Brasner says. It’s the one item of clothing you can feel free to wear in the chair, especially if your feet get cold. Other than that, it’s everything off. Your doc is most likely going to do a breast exam, so be sure to take your bra off too and avoid an awkward moment. And stop worrying about how you look, says Brasner. You don’t need to shave your legs or worry about making sure your lady parts are waxed. The gyno is down there for more important reasons.
How often do I need a pelvic exam and a Pap test?
Today’s doctors know more than ever about HPV and its link to an abnormal Pap smear. They’ve learned that young women do not have the same HPV risk that older women do, so the guidelines have relaxed in terms of the age of your first visit. However, since many ladies see only a gynecologist, it’s still important to have checkups. “I try to keep in mind that a lot of my patients don’t see other doctors and aren’t going to have any other face-to-face contact with a health-care professional if they don’t come to see me,” says Brasner.
There is a difference between how often you need a Pap smear and how often you need to visit the gyno. For younger women, Brasner recommends having a Pap every three years but going for a checkup every year to get the interaction or feedback from her about anything new, vagina-related or not.
Do I really have to go to a gynecologist for my problem? Can’t I just self-diagnose?
Self-diagnosis on the Internet is a double-edged sword, says Brasner. The Web has a wealth of information, but without the proper filters and or education to sort through symptoms, it may be difficult to separate fact from fiction. “The Internet will walk a patient down the path of the worst-case scenario, so the patient will assume she has an awful problem when it is really a mild issue,” says Brasner.
But if you’re going to use over-the-counter products without consulting your gyno, Brasner has a few tips. Anything that’s heavily cosmetic—such as lotions, potions, and perfumed sprays—is no good. If you have an itch, buy an OTC product that is free of parabens and alcohol. If you really don’t know what to buy, call your gyno, who will be able to recommend the right OTC products.
Is it normal to have a sonogram at the gyno if I’m not pregnant?
Sonograms are used for nonpregnant women only if something in their medical history or physical indicates an abnormality. If you have no history of cysts or health issues, consult your insurance company before agreeing to a sonogram from your doc. They can be quite expensive and can sometimes produce false positives, requiring the need for further testing, says Brasner.
I just moved to a new area. What should I look for in a doctor, and how can I find a good one?
Ask around. Your peers are a great resource to start with, because most of the time, they have similar needs as you. For example, your coworkers may have similar insurance policies and will know how to find a local gyno who is on your plan.
The big debate: Would you feel more comfortable with a male or female gyno? Back in the day, patients didn’t have much of an option because most gynos were men. Plenty of women still see male doctors, and every doctor is required to have a nurse in the room during the exam, so you should feel safe with either sex.
Do some research. Find out if your new doc is board certified and if he or she is affiliated with a hospital. This may not seem important to you now, but it’s good to know. If you ever need to be hospitalized or if you are planning on having a baby, you’ll want to be familiar with the hospital where your gyno works. Determine how many doctors are in the practice and if your preferred gyno is there part time or full time. And inquire about office hours, what days the practice is open, and if special appointment times (such as early morning or evening) are available.