No matter how comfortable you are with your gynecologist, some questions can be tough to ask. Whether you have period or libido concerns, you can get your answers right here from Shape!
Coming in for your annual women's health exam can be anxiety-inducing itself, and speaking up about a nonexistent libido, sex on your period, or how you smell down there can be even more uncomfortable (and sometimes scary). While you should never stay mum when it comes to your health, you can make your next convo with your gynecologist easier by coming armed with the following knowledge about common womanly concerns.
1. My Guy Says I Smell "Funny." Should I Be Worried?
We all smell differently. "Everything we consume — food, drinks, medication, drugs, alcohol — changes our vaginal secretions and men's semen," says Justine Shuey, PhD, a professor of human sexuality and certified sex educator. If you're self-conscious about your odor, try drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables (other than cruciferous veggies, as their sulfur compounds can give you that distinctive rotten-egg smell), and cutting back on alcohol since it can increase sweating in your crotch. And — no-brainer — quit smoking: the smell permeates everything — and we mean everything.
However, if your scent suddenly varies greatly from your normal scent for no apparent reason, comes with a lot of discharge, or turns "fishy," see your doctor, as all of these are signs of infection. One possible culprit: your birth control method. “Both hormonal and nonhormonal IUDs have an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis, which is characterized by a fishy smell," says Colette Brown-Graham, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners. If you're prone to infection but don't want to change to another birth control, eating a healthy, well-rounded diet and supplementing with a probiotic can help.
2. Is It Safe to Have Sex During My Period?
There aren't any unique risks about having sex during your red week, except that the chance of pregnancy is more complicated, Brown-Graham says. If you have a 28-day cycle, you ovulate 14 days before the onset of your next cycle, so you would be relatively "safe" from pregnancy. But if you have a 22-day cycle and therefore ovulate on day eight, having intercourse immediately after your period would be decidedly more "risky." "No time is ever perfectly safe, but many women who understand their ovulatory pattern can tell when they have more or less risk of becoming pregnant," Brown-Graham adds. Of course, if you use condoms or another form of birth control, you should be fine, and since some women report increased sensation and pleasure during that time of the month, you may want to consider it.
3. When Should I Worry About Itching Down There?
Since itching down yonder can happen due to anything from sexually transmitted infections or yeast infections to too-tight pants or staying in damp gym clothes for too long, it can be hard to know when to worry, says Allison Hill, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and coauthor of The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. If you're not sure of the source and the itching persists after you shower, she recommends making an appointment with your doctor, stat.
4. What's the Difference Between Normal PMS and Unhinged, Need-Meds PMS?
Moodiness is a common part of PMS, says Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist, and author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life. What's uncommon, however, is anxiety that makes functioning in your daily life difficult or depression that leaves you highly irritable such that you are exploding at others or feeling hopeless and crying. These symptoms could indicate premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). If your PMS is interfering with your life, talk to your doctor, as PMDD can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.