Many women lead very busy and hectic lives. We may be caregivers for children and elderly parents. We may have demanding jobs both at home and in the work force. So when something goes awry with our bodies many of us tend to dismiss our symptoms, especially gynecological ones. Although it is more acceptable now to discuss our sexual health, there is still a great reluctance to talk about what is happening with our bodies "down there." The delay in getting gynecological treatment may be due to fear, lack of awareness of what may indicate a serious problem, and even financial worries of how to pay to see a doctor. We may also think that things will miraculously get better if we just wait. But for a lot of women this waiting can mean suffering needlessly and taking a risk that our condition will worsen. In this post we are going to discuss five gynecological symptoms you should never ignore.
1. Spotting or bleeding in between periods
There are many reasons for spotting or bleeding when you are not having your period including taking birth control pills, hormonal fluctuations, and perimenopause. Most of the time the cause for between period bleeding is not harmful but some reasons may be more serious including an infection, an STD, or even cancer. If you are experiencing spotting or bleeding when you are not having your period, it is strongly advised that you call your doctor to see if you need to come in for an exam.
2. Pain during sex
There are some women who do not look forward to having sexual relations because they know they will experience pain. Some women may think this is normal to feel pain during sex. It is not so normal and it may actually indicate that there is an underlying medical problem. Pain during sex can be caused by anything from a lack of lubrication to ovarian cancer. The range is wide as far as potential causes so if you are experiencing chronic pain during sexual intercourse, you need to get checked by your doctor.
For more information on the possible causes for this symptom please read my article, 5 Reasons for Painful Sex.
3. Painful periods
This is probably the one gynecological symptom that most women ignore. Periods are supposed to be painful aren't they? It is true that menstruation is usually accompanied by cramps and some discomfort. But for some women, a period can render them dysfunctional. There are some women who will miss school or work because their period pain is so intense. In some cases this extreme pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. Heed the call and see your doctor. Young girls may experience very painful periods when they are just beginning to menstruate with no underlying medical ailment. For older women, some of the possible causes for painful periods can include uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Whatever the reason for your pain, you don't need to suffer. There is help and treatment for period pain (dysmenorrhea).
For more information about painful periods please refer to the following Health Central resource: Dysmenorrhea
4. A change in your period
We all know our bodies. We all have a pretty good assessment of what is normal for us as far as our menstrual cycle. But when that regularity changes then this is a time to stop and take notice. Changes in your period can include: An increase in flow, having longer or shorter periods, having periods that are less than 21 days apart or over 35 days, having more pain during your period, or having a delayed or missing period.
These are all indications that you may want to speak with your doctor. There are numerous reasons why your period can change including nearing menopause, stress, illness, birth control pills, and pregnancy. There can also be an underlying medical cause such as an ovarian cyst, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis.
For more information on irregular periods please refer to the following Health Central resources:
5. Excessive chronic bloating
You may be surprised to see this symptom listed. Most women experience bloating especially prior to menstruation. But when the bloating is chronic and doesn't seem to be going away it may indicate a serious problem. An ovarian cyst can cause symptoms such as bloating, pelvic pain, painful periods, and pain during sexual intercourse. In a lot of cases an ovarian cyst will resolve on its own over time. But in other cases an ovarian cyst will grow to the point where it will need to be surgically removed. Another, even more serious medical concern with excessive bloating or what some describe as pelvic pressure and heaviness, is ovarian cancer. When your bloating seems unrelated to what you eat and gallbladder issues, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, or other digestive ailments have been ruled out you should consult with your gynecologist. The bloating associated with ovarian cancer is chronic (it does not go away over time or with traditional anti-bloating medications or a change in diet). They say that ovarian cancer whispers because the symptoms can be vague and dismissed as indigestion or part of middle age weight gain. So this is why it is important not to ignore this symptom of bloating. Get it checked out by your doctor.
For more information about bloating and related topic please refer to the following Health Central articles and resources:
It may seem embarrassing, inconvenient, or worrisome to call the doctor about gynecological symptoms. But in a lot of cases getting an exam is the only way to ease our mind, get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Health sites such as this one can be a great way to get information as a starting point but it is not a substitute for medical care. If you have any of the above symptoms or you just feel like something is not right call your doctor. My motto is: When in doubt, get it checked out