A trip to the gynecologist is almost always an adventure, and for most women, not necessarily something to celebrate. Because, let's face it, the vagina is a passageway between environments, and is easily thrown out of whack. Contrary to what your embarrassed thoughts are telling you in the gyno's office, your doctor has heard it all before. Thousands of times. The gynecologist is your vagina's best friend; confide in her your troubles or any issues you think are abnormal. Chances are, they're totally not.
What on Earth is that smell?
Just like every human being has a distinct smell due to pheromones, all vaginas have distinct smells due to a combination of different things: the food you eat, personal hygiene and hormones. Vaginas secrete a natural lubricant called squalene, and those secretions also play into the odor. What's more important is if you notice a change in the odor (and yes, that means you should be aware of what a normal odor is for you). If the smell becomes stronger or fishy, it could mean a bacterial or yeast infection, or a possible STD. Or, if the smell is out-of-this-world pungent, check if you left a tampon inside (hey, it happens to tons of ladies). Of course, these changes should be reported to your gynecologist for remedies. But stay at ease when it comes to odors from down under; all active mamas smell a little.
Is it weird to itch my lady parts?
Ever catch a man with his hand on his junk, tugging and scratching away? Lady parts can be just as itchy, and of course that itch needs relief, but be aware of what your vagina is trying to tell you (and be careful scratching with long nails). Any number of factors can play into vaginal itching: hormone fluctuations during your time of the month, skin irritation due to products like condoms and soaps, a bacterial infection, a yeast infection, or an STD. Seventy-five percent of women said they have gotten a yeast infection in their lifetime, which is often painful and very itchy, but treated with an antibiotic. The occasional itch is normal, but a persistent and painful itch combined with abnormal odor may be the sign of something more.
Am I peeing during sex?
Let's start with some facts and figures. Twenty percent of women are affected by urinary incontinence, and that often leads into coital incontinence. Feeling the urge to urinate during intercourse usually happens because of how the penis can press on the bladder in different positions. Regardless, having passionate sex disrupted by the need to pee is frustrating to say the least, but it happens. Talk with your gyno about options, but a good round of kegel exercises followed by emptying your bladder right before falling into bed could help tremendously! Also good to know: During an orgasm, a woman's bladder (which sits on top of the uterus) may release a very small amount of urine because of the contractions. If you've had children, the pelvic floor muscles may be weakened and need to be strengthened. Talk to your doctor about how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles to decrease the risk of a trickle!
Is it weird to shave down there?
Mama, it is personal preference. If you want to wax it, then wax it! If you want to shave patterns into it, you go girl! There is no real risk associated with smoothing over your downstairs, other than getting the occasional ingrown hair or skin irritation.
How much discharge is normal?
Because every woman is different, the amount of discharge you'll see can be widely different from your girlfriends'. Some women have so much discharge that they need to wear panty liners, and other women are dry like the Sahara desert. Normal discharge can be clear or white when stuck on clothing, and is often times thin and stringy. Keep an eye out for odd odors, chunky discharge or burning sensations, as these could be signs of infection.
When should a painful bump be cause for worry?
If you shave or wax, it's possible that the bump is an ingrown hair or a clogged pore; these can be itchy and red in color. Ingrown hairs usually take care of themselves, but are also treatable with exfoliation and waiting to shave more. A persisting bump may call for a trip to the doctor. A persisting sore may be a vaginal pimple, which could be treated with a hot compress, but any bump or sore should be reported to your gynecologist first to test for herpes and other STIs. Your doctor can assess the sore and decide how best to move forward.
The yearly trip to the gynecologist is too often intimidating, but it shouldn't have to be. Your gynecologist will help you navigate through some pinnacle parts of life: birth control, pregnancy, and your health as a woman. WebMD published a guide on finding a gynecologist that you can trust. Once you do, bringing up topics that are sensitive to you will be much easier.