For some women, discussing reproductive health with their OB/GYN (obstetrician and gynecologist) is pretty embarrassing, especially since it often concerns conversations about sex. However, as with the other parts of your body, your reproductive organs need regular checkups with a medical professional, specifically an OB/GYN specialist.
Annual OB/GYN checkups are important for maintaining sexual health
Typically, women over the age of 18 should see their OB/GYN once a year. If you’re at a loss about what to ask your doctor at your annual exam, we’ve listed several questions below that hopefully will make those awkward office visits a little easier. Remember: if though you’re uncomfortable talking about highly personal issues, you can bet your OB-GYN has heard it all before.
6 questions to keep in mind during your OB/GYN checkup
- What’s the difference between regular menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea (extremely painful menstruation with severe abdominal cramps)?
Monthly menstrual cramps are normal, but when you lose feeling from waist down, can’t stand up from the pain, or faint every time you get your period, something more serious than normal cramping may be occurring and needs medical attention. This type of severe pain may be secondary dysmenorrhea, caused by a disorder in your reproductive organs. Conditions that can cause secondary dysmenorrhea include:
- Endometriosis: a condition in which the tissue lining the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: an infection caused by bacteria that starts in the uterus and can spread to other reproductive organs
- Stenosis (narrowing) of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, often caused by scarring
- Fibroids: cysts, or growths, on the inner wall of the uterus
- What if if I’m sexually active?
Regular visits to your OB-GYN is a must if you’re sexually active — even if you’ve never been pregnant. This keeps you and your doctor up-to-date on the state of your reproductive health and enables your physician to detect a problem in its early stages when it is most treatable.
- What kind of birth control should I take?
Birth control is a very personal issue. There are many different birth control methods available and it’s important to discuss each one with your doctor so that together, you can choose the one that’s right for you, your lifestyle and your individual body.
- Something feels weird “down there.” Could it be an STD?
Does your vagina feel itchy? Does it have an odd smell and/or a discharge? If so, it’s a good idea to have yourself checked out by your OB/GYN. Having a genital condition doesn’t mean you have an STD (sexually transmitted disease). It may be a simple yeast infection that is easily treated. On the other hand, if you do have a sexual disease, you want it diagnosed as soon as possible so you can begin treatment.
- Why do I feel pain when I urinate or have sex?
One of the most common female reproductive issues is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can be unnoticeable in the beginning but can develop into something quite serious. There are also other health issues that can trigger this kind of pain that rewquire a doctor’s evaluation.
- Is there anything about my body I should know about?
Education plays a huge role in ensuring your reproductive health. Birth control, menstruation, understanding your body and how it functions, pregnancy and childbirth, avoiding risky sexual behavior…all of these are crucial issues that you should have a thorough knowledge of, in all stages of your life. To educate yourself, there are many well-respected resources available but above all, the most trusted, knowledgeable and confidential source of information on sexual health is your OB/GYN. Don’t be shy to ask questions, share concerns and be completely honest…that’s what they’re there for!
Make an appointment to see one of our OB/GYNs
If you are concerned about a sexual health issue, have not had a regular OB/GYN exam in over a year or simply have questions, please contact Westchester Health at 914-232-1919 and we will help you find an OB/GYN.