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Too Embarrassed to Ask? Women’s Health Questions Answered

answers to embarrassing women's health questions Like most women, you probably come to your annual obstetrical exam visit with at least a few women’s health related questions on your mind. But also like most women, you probably fail to ask your doctor these questions because you either a) got distracted, b) ran out of time, c) you simply forgot or d) you’re just too embarrassed to ask.

At Moreland OB-GYN, we focus on building strong relationships with our patients, regardless of their age or stage in life. We strive to provide a comfortable environment, based on trust, that encourages our patients to be open and honest with us. But, for those of you who may still feel uncomfortable asking certain questions, here are some of the most common (sometimes embarrassing) women’s health questions, answered.

Is it possible to lose a tampon?

No. Since the opening of your cervix is too small for a tampon to pass through, it’s not possible for a tampon to get “lost”. However, if you ever forget to remove your tampon before putting another one in, or you forget to remove your tampon before having sex, it may get pushed toward the back wall of your vagina, which can feel uncomfortable.

If you notice a foul odor or think you forgot a tampon you can't reach, please contact your doctor.

My breasts are different in size and/or shape. Is this normal?

It’s actually very rare for breasts to be perfectly symmetrical. Usually, the differences in size and/or shape are subtle, but sometimes breasts can vary by a full cup size or more. While breast shape and balance largely depends on your overall breast tissue and body fat distribution, breast size can change (even daily) based on your level of estrogen and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The majority of women report significant changes in breast size and shape during pregnancy and especially when they are nursing. The reason for this is because breast fat is absorbed into your milk and then consumed by the baby.

However, if you ever notice redness, swelling or a lump that accompanies any breast size changes, it could be an infection or a tumor in your breast. If you happen to experience swelling or redness while you’re breastfeeding, you may have a blocked milk duct. Either way, if you experience any redness, swelling or lumps in your breast, it’s time to see your doctor.

I have lumpy breasts, so how would I know if I have a problem?

Not only are lumpy (or fibrocystic) breasts common, they can make it tricky for women to spot irregularities. The best thing that you can do is to get to know your breasts. Make sure that you are conducting monthly self-exams right after your period, when your breasts are less likely to be lumpy. If you do feel something new, you’ll know. But, don’t panic. Eighty percent of the lumps women find in their breasts are not cancerous.

In addition to conducting monthly self-exams, schedule an annual breast screening and a mammogram beginning at age 40, or earlier, if you have a family history of breast cancer.

What can I do to reduce feminine odor?

Everyday activity, certain types of clothing, where you’re in your cycle, sexual activity and other hormonal changes can cause and contribute to common feminine odors. Honestly, the best thing that you can do to feel fresh “down there” is to take a warm shower.

Reaching for scented washes, wipes, sprays and panty liners that promise freshness can cause damage to sensitive skin and upset the normal bacteria that helps to keep your vagina healthy. We also don’t recommend douching, because it changes the pH level in your vagina which can often encourage bad bacteria to flourish. In addition, the act of douching may even push this bacteria further into your reproductive system, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Is my vaginal discharge normal?

The amount of vaginal discharge you experience typically changes with your menstrual cycle. If you are experiencing discharge that is clear with either no scent or a light musky odor, you are likely ovulating and the discharge is normal. However, other types of discharge typically signals an infection and should be checked out by your doctor, including:

  • If your discharge is white with a texture resembling cottage cheese and you are itchy, you could have a yeast infection.
  • If you notice a fishy-smelling discharge that may be accompanied by pain or irregular bleeding, you may have a bacterial infection. These types of infections are typically caused by regular douching or wiping from back to front after using the restroom.
  • If your discharge is foul-smelling and/or frothy, it could be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection, like chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis.

Sometimes I notice acne or tiny bumps around my vaginal area. Do I have an STI?

Since the skin in and around the vaginal area is often covered by clothing and moist, it’s a haven for bacteria. Sweat that gets trapped in your groin area can encourage bacteria to make its way under your skin and cause folliculitis - an infection that causes redness, inflammation, tenderness, bumps, blisters or pimples. If you wax or shave your bikini area, you may experience relatively harmless red bumps or pimples, which are usually irritated hair follicles.

The best way to prevent vaginal acne or bumps around your vaginal area is to keep yourself dry and clean, and wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear. Tight clothing and silk or nylon underwear make it hard for your vaginal area to breathe, which leads to excessive sweat, bacteria growth and possible infection. When grooming your bikini area, be sure to use a new razor blade, shaving gel or cream, and shave in the direction that your hair grows.

If you notice bumps or pimples in your vaginal area that just won’t go away, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to make sure that it isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like human papillomavirus (genital warts) or herpes. If you have vaginal acne or folliculitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.

Is it possible to get pregnant during your period?

While it is possible for women to get pregnant by having sex during their period, your chances of conceiving are rather low because there’s typically no egg to be fertilized at that time. However, women tend to ovulate at different times during their cycle or have shortened cycles, so if you ovulate quickly after your cycle is over (you get your period), it may be possible for you to become pregnant.

If you don’t want to become pregnant, we recommend using a condom or alternate form of birth control, or abstaining from sexual activity.

I just had a baby. Will my vagina ever be the same?

If you had a normal vaginal delivery, your vagina should by well healed by 6 weeks after birth. However, if you experienced vaginal tearing during delivery, if could take approximately 8 to 12 weeks for your vagina to fully heal.

If you are beyond the typically healing stages and you are still having discomfort during sex, it’s important to talk to your doctor to explore the options (exercises, techniques, rejuvenation and reconstruction surgeries) that may work best for you.

I’ve noticed my partner and I aren’t having as much sex as we used to as we get older. Is this normal?

The good news is there really isn’t anything “normal” when it comes to the frequency of sex that couples are supposed to have. However, research suggests that in the first few years of a relationship, couples tend to engage in sex an average of 1-3 times per week. At year four, couples make love approximately once a week, and after having a baby, that number often dips to 1-3 times each month.

Many factors affect frequency and interest in having sex, including raising children, stress on the job, anxiety, illness and simply finding the time. However, if you suspect that your lack of sexual interest is related to discomfort you experience during sex or a hormonal imbalance, it’s important to contact your doctor.

I’ve noticed an increase in facial hair. Why is that?

It’s normal for women to grow more facial hair as they age. Unfortunately, the hair that grows is darker and coarser than the fine hairs that you may have had pop up when you were younger. If however, you notice a sudden and drastic difference in your facial hair, you may have a hormonal imbalance or be approaching menopause. Other possible links to increased facial hair in women include side effects of medications (oral contraceptives or steroids), polycystic ovarian syndrome, or in very rare cases, a hormone-secreting tumor may be present.

We understand how easy it can be for women to simply not ask some of their most pressing and embarrassing health questions. But truthfully, there isn’t anything you could ask us that we haven’t already heard. Really. So, if you have questions - yes, even those embarrassing ones - make sure to write them down and bring them up during your next doctor’s visit. We’re happy to answer any questions that you have so we can deliver the personalized care you need and deserve.

At Moreland OB-GYN, we specialize in women’s health care and prioritizing the needs of our patients at all ages and stages in their life. We hope you’ll connect with us to answer your questions and we hope you’ll turn to our experts as a trusted source for information.

Here is some additional information from our team!

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