Some women are perfectly at ease discussing personal lubricant at brunch. Some have their gyno on speed dial and have absolutely no problem opening up about even the most unseemly symptoms. But for many women, sexual health is still an uncomfortable subject, and that discomfort can make them reluctant to seek help for medical issues. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone -- but if you find yourself asking one of these six questions, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist:
If you find yourself struggling to keep up in Zumba class, you’re not the only one -- but according to Diana Bitner, MD of Spectrum Health Medical Group, “Experiencing a progressive inability to exercise or unexplained fatigue can be a sign of heart disease or a heart attack. Women tend not to have classic heart attack symptoms such as crushing chest pain, but instead have more subtle symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and shoulder or neck pain.” If these symptoms sound familiar, don’t write them off as just another part of menopause or growing older. Talk to your gyno or primary care physician to see if something more serious could be the cause.
Red bumps around your bikini line might be caused by shaving or waxing, but according to Tiffany E. Cook Executive Director of Praxis Clinical, “When you have a sore on your vulva that developed after a few days of intense itching, you may have Herpes. While Herpes is incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of, it’s difficult to diagnose unless a practitioner takes a swab of an open wound. Go in while the sore is still weeping; if it’s healed up, it’s already too late for a good specimen.”
Painful intercourse can be caused by a latex allergy or vaginal dryness. Sometimes something as simple as using personal lubricant can solve the issue. Other times, more serious medical issues may be to blame -- one of them being cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer does not usually show symptoms until later stages, which is why it is essential for women to be regularly screened with a Pap test and pelvic exam,” cautions Lisa Berry, Manager of Media Relations at the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “However, a woman should talk to her health care professional right away if she experiences symptoms like bleeding or pain during or after sex, menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and is heavier than usual, or increased or unusual discharge from the vagina.”
It’s happened to all of us (even if we don’t admit it) -- a friend cracks a hilarious joke and you laugh so hard that you pee a little bit. But if this scenario starts to become a daily event, it may be time to talk to your gyno. According to OB-GYN and Medical Director of SottoPelle hormonal therapy Dr. Gino Tutera, “leakage and incontinence issues can indicate a bladder or kidney infection or pelvic floor disorder.” So if you experience these symptoms weekly or even daily, talk to your gyno to see if an underlying health problem could be to blame.
“All women get occasional pelvic complaints such as left-sided achy pelvic pressure with constipation, or mid-cycle pelvic pain/discomfort with ovulation, or bloating after certain foods,” says Diana Bitner, “But if the pain or pressure is persistent and progressive, it could be a sign of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, colon diverticulosis, diverticulitis, colitis, or worst case scenario, ovarian cancer. An ultrasound can rule out most causes, and a colonoscopy can rule out common colon problems. It is important to not ignore such symptoms but to ask and have appropriate evaluation.”
When you’ve had condom-less sex with a partner whose STI status you are unsure of, Tiffany E. Cook suggests you ask for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV testing. “These tests can be done through urine and blood tests by nurses, health educators, and/or family planning counselors and do not require a pelvic exam. Treatment is prevention, so it’s better to be diagnosed and treat any infections. Make sure any sexual partners get treatment as well, or you may re-infect yourself.”
Remember, these aren’t the only questions that should warrant a doctor’s visit. If you’re concerned about any symptoms you’re experiencing, big or small, reach out to your doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and a bit of embarrassment now could save you from a lot more down the road. Before your appointment, make a list of any questions you might have - whether they’re about sex lube or your family’s history of cervical cancer. This will help you remember the issues you’ve been wondering about and ensure you make the most of each visit.
Do you have a question you’d wished you’d asked your gyno sooner? Did a simple question to your doctor lead to a surprising discovery? Tell us about your experience by tweeting us @Astroglide!
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