To get the most out of your gynecologist appointments, you need to know what to discuss and the language to use to express your problems or concerns. Your doctor cannot help you if they do not know what you are experiencing, and you should never suffer in silence, believing what you experience is typical or untreatable. Whether you are taking fertility supplements to boost your chances of becoming pregnant or notice a weird smell or change in vaginal discharge, these are a few things you should always mention to your gynecologist.
1. Pregnancy and Fertility
Talk to your gyno about whether you are planning to become pregnant in the future or are actively trying to conceive. Having a healthy pregnancy starts before pregnancy begins, and your doctor may offer insight on some lifestyle changes you should make. Since diet, weight, medications, age and exercise routines can all impact fertility, you may be able to make some changes months in advance and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy or getting pregnant. This is especially true if you or the women in your family have a history of infertility or miscarriages. Your gyno can give you insight into your egg health and ensure you maintain the best health for reproduction.
If you and your partner struggle with infertility, talking to your gynecologist is even more critical. If you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for more than a year, or if you are over 35 and have been trying to conceive for more than six months, talk to your gyno. They can recommend lifestyle changes, supplements or fertility treatment options. Whatever you want to discuss regarding pregnancy and fertility, it’s best to mention you want a fertility consultation when you schedule your appointment. If you try to bring it up during your regular yearly appointment, your gyno may not have enough time to have an in-depth discussion with you. You may also want to bring your partner with you for the conversation.
2. Your Sexual History
Rest assured that your doctor is not judging you when they ask you those highly personal questions about your sex life. Your number of sexual partners, age of first sexual experience, gender identity, STI diagnoses and sexual orientation can impact your risks for conditions such as cervical dysplasia, HPV and infertility. Therefore, the more accurate the sexual history you provide, the more proactive your gyno can be.
3. Pain During Your Period
Having a period is not a fun experience by anyone’s standards. While headaches and cramping are common during periods, pain so severe it impacts your ability to live your life to its fullest is not. Pain that keeps you in bed every month may be a sign of conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Treatment options exist, but your doctor cannot prescribe them if they do not know you need them.
4. Changes to Your Menstrual Cycle
Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique to them, so it is essential to know your normal. If you notice any changes to your menstrual cycle, such as unusual flow, clotting, cramping, spotting, irregularity or pain, you should talk to your gyno.
5. Unusual Symptoms or New Vaginal Odors
Bring it up at your next appointment if you experience any new pain, change in weight, breast tenderness or nausea. It may not be directly related to your reproductive system, but these are symptoms that need to be addressed. While some vaginal odor is typical, especially after physical activity or sexual intercourse if you notice a new foul or fishy smell, it could be a sign of bacteria overgrowth or an infection such as a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), both of which require medical treatment.
6. Sexual Discomfort
Vaginal dryness can occur at all ages for various reasons. If you are taking birth control, your estrogen levels may be low, and it may be time to switch up your birth control routine. If you are postmenopausal, you may need some liquid estrogen to keep sex pleasurable. Other factors such as stress, diet and low libido due to medication side effects or underlying conditions might also be responsible for your discomfort. Your gyno wants you to have a healthy sex life, and they can offer solutions for any sexual discomfort you may encounter. Pain during sex can indicate a medical condition or reveal a problem with your IUD. At the very least, it can make intimacy with your partner difficult, impacting the overall quality of your relationship.
7. Urinary or Fecal Leakage
If you had a vaginal delivery for a large baby, or your vaginal delivery required forceps or a vacuum, you might have urinary or fecal incontinence that is, at best, an inconvenient embarrassment or, at worst, debilitating to your way of life. After menopause, this leakage can worsen. Either way, talk to your gynecologist about the symptoms you are experiencing. There may be treatments available to help improve your quality of life.
8. Changes to the Exam
While no one enjoys their yearly pelvic exam, it can be particularly triggering if you have experienced sexual trauma at any point in your life. If you find any portion of the exam triggering, tell your doctor. There may be alternatives to more invasive tests, or they may be able to skip a part of it depending on your situation. At the very least, they will be able to take steps to keep you calm during the exam, such as telling you exactly what they are going to do or taking things slow.
Honesty Helps Everyone
If you do not open up to your gynecologist, you are left wondering if what you are experiencing is expected or something more concerning. You may also continue to suffer when there are effective solutions.
Your gynecologist is not there to judge you; they can help you, but only if you are upfront and honest about your health and symptoms. Chances are, whatever you have to talk about is something they have already discussed with someone else.
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