10 Things You Should Tell Your Doctor During Your Annual Women's Pelvic Exam
You are having your annual gynecological exam. You aren’t sure how much you need to divulge to your doctor. Some things are downright embarrassing. Does she really need to know that last month you had a one-night stand and didn’t use a condom? Or that sometimes you find sex painful? To get the best medical care, you have to be forthcoming. While sharing details of your sex life or questions about your body can be uncomfortable, your doctor is there to help and has probably heard it all before.
The following are 10 things you should share with your gynecologist:1. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms. You know your body. You know what it feels like when you have PMS or how long your period normally lasts. You know how much your breasts hurt and for how long during PMS. If you have noticed any changes in your monthly cycle, no matter how slight, make sure to let your doctor know.
2.** Whether you are sexually active.** It’s important not to lie to your doctor, no matter what your age. When you are sexually active, there is always a risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many people never have visible symptoms of an STD, so it’s important that you are tested for these hidden infections as soon as you become sexually active.
3.** If you have had unprotected sex.** You might be embarrassed to say that you had unprotected sex, or you might think that because it was several months ago you don’t need to mention it because you don’t have any symptoms of an STD and you obviously aren’t pregnant. As explained in the previous answer, many people never have symptoms of an infection or might not have symptoms for many years. It’s important to let your doctor know that you are at risk for an STD and have STD testing on a regular basis.
4.** You have pain during sex.** There are reasons for painful sex. It might be as simple as vaginal dryness that can be remedied with over-the-counter lubricants. It also could be caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis or an STD. If you are over 40, you might be experiencing signs of perimenopause. Whatever it is, it is best to find out and treat it appropriately.
5.** You noticed an unusual discharge or have noticed a strange odor.** Normal vaginal discharge happens from time to time. You might notice a small amount of fluid in your panties. This fluid should be clear, white, or off-white. If you notice a discharge that is green, gray, or looks like cottage cheese, you should talk to your doctor. If you notice an unpleasant vaginal odor (such as a fishy smell), it is important to let your doctor know. These can indicate an infection.
6.** You have a low libido.** A low libido can be caused by a number of different things. It could be a side effect of medication, you might be under stress, or you might have an underlying medical condition. Talk to your doctor to find out what exactly is going on and what you can do about it.
7.** Your period has stopped.** Of course, you might be pregnant, but there are other reasons your period might have stopped. Weight loss, poor nutrition, hormonal imbalances, and stress can all cause you to stop having your period.
8.** You are considering birth control.** Your doctor is absolutely the right person to talk to about the different options for birth control. There are many different forms of the birth control pill, monthly shots, IUDs, and more. Your doctor can talk to you about the pros and cons of each method and help you decide what is right for you.
9.** If you smoke.** Even if you smoke only a few cigarettes a week, your doctor needs to know. Smoking increases the chance that HPV will turn into cancer, and it is associated with blood clots, heart attack, and stroke, especially if you are on oral hormonal birth control.
10.** If you have severe PMS.** Many women put up with severe PMS, called PMDD, because they think that it is just the way it is for some people. If you have severe PMS, your doctor can find out if there is a reason, such as thyroid problems or polycystic ovary syndrome. Once you find out why, you can treat it and save yourself a great deal of pain and misery.
Of course, you should also talk with your doctor if there is anything else that concerns you. Remember to keep your doctor informed if your personal or family health history changes or if there is a change in your personal living situation.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.