Maybe it’s the lack of pants, the crotch-centric tightness of denim shorts or the maternal warning, first uttered in childhood yet ignored to this day, to “never hang out in a wet bathing suit,” but vaginas seem to be top of mind during summer. And who has time to go to their gyno in the summer, right??
You do. You definitely do. Health takes priority over swimming pools.
BUT LET’S JUST SAY you have some questions that you’d like vetted before you see your doctor/nurse practitioner. Ones that you’d like to arm yourself with so that when you enter her office you feel like you can talk the vagina talk just as much as you walk the vagina walk. Or maybe there’s something that you’re too embarrassed to bring up because you feel like at a certain age, you should know X by now?
Well guess what, Diva Cup? No question is a stupid question. Which is why…
We asked Dr. Suzanne Fenske, OBGYN, a full-time assistant professor in gynecology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who specializes in pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, minimally invasive surgery and general gynecology, alllll about your hoo-ha.
Have more questions? Ask them in the comments below.
If all vaginas are different then how can you tell if yours is healthy?
Vaginas can be very different, varying in size, color and overall appearance. That being said, there are universal signs that something is wrong. If you are experiencing foul smelling vaginal discharge, irregular bleeding, pain, new bumps or ulcers, then you should see your gynecologist. These things are not necessarily signs of an STI, but they’re not normal.
I have never been to a gyno. Is that weird? When should I start going and how often?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a first visit between the ages of 13 and 15 for education and to assess development. The pap smear (cervical cancer screening test) is initiated at age 21 regardless of sexual activity. It would be best for a woman to see her gynecologist at age 13-15 or prior to becoming sexually active or if she believes something to be wrong. If nothing’s wrong, she should start seeing a gynecologist once she is sexually active or age 21 (whichever comes first).
Is it dumb that I haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. There are many members of the HPV family, but there are now vaccines that can help prevent you from getting some of the most common HPV types. Most recently, there is a vaccination that helps prevent getting nine common HPV types. Two of these HPV types account for 70% of cervical cancers.
The HPV vaccine is meant to be given to females between the ages of nine and 26. If you are in this age group and not pregnant, then you should get the vaccine and help protect yourself against cervical cancer and genital warts.
Do I really need to pee after sex? Why? For the frequent UTI-getters, is that the only way to prevent UTI?
The idea behind urinating after intercourse is that you will “flush out” the bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections. If you are one of the unfortunate women who get frequent urinary tract infections, then you should practice good hygiene and urinate after sex. In addition, you could consider being on antibiotic prophylaxis. (Ask your gyno to prescribe.) This means that you either take one antibiotic pill a day or take one pill around the time of intercourse to prevent getting a urinary tract infection.
To quote Hannah Horvath, “but what about the stuff that gets up around the side of the condoms?” But actually, what STDs do condoms NOT protect against, and how do I protect myself?
Do not stop using condoms because you think that they are not protecting you. Condoms decrease the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI). That being said, even with good condom use you can still be exposed to genital warts, HPV and herpes. These STIs can be on the base of the penis, the perineum, or any area in the male or female genital region not covered by a condom. If your skin comes into contact with that area, then you can still be exposed even though you are using a condom.
Other than abstinence, the only way to decrease the risk of getting a STI is condom use and making sure that you do not see any warts or ulcers. Even with these safety precautions, there is still a risk. For men who have intercourse with men, these same risks exists. Although men are not at risk for cervical cancer due to HPV, they are at risk for penile cancer, warts, anal and oropharyngeal cancer due to HPV. For women who have intercourse with women, STIs can be transmitted from skin to skin contact as well as sharing unwashed toys.
I had a one night stand, no condom. Now what?
Do not panic, but make sure that you always use a condom in the future. First, if you are not using another form of contraception (i.e. birth control pill, NuvaRing, IUD, Depo-Provera) and you do not want to become pregnant, then go to your nearest pharmacy and purchase Plan B. If this medication is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, then it can prevent pregnancy.
Second, see your primary care doctor, gynecologist or Planned Parenthood for STI testing. It is best to do this testing about a week after the event and you will need to repeat some of these tests six months later to ensure they are negative.
End this fight now! Can you or can you not get pregnant from pre-ejaculation fluid?
The answer is that it is unlikely, but possible. Pre-ejaculation does not usually contain a lot of living sperm, but there is a possibility of some and all it takes is one. In addition, you can get a STI from pre-ejaculation fluid. Therefore, it is important to use a condom before you initiate sex and keep it on until the end.
Can you get pregnant from ejaculation near or around but not inside the vagina?
Again, the answer is that it is unlikely but possible.
Do you have to go to a doctor for a yeast infection?
If you have vaginal itching or burning with associated thick white discharge, then you likely have a yeast infection. You can try an over the counter remedy like Monistat. If you do not have resolution of symptoms in 48 hours, then you should make an appointment to see your gynecologist. If you have a foul odor or green or gray discharge then it is best to immediately see your gynecologist as this is most likely not a yeast infection.
I’m on birth control but I don’t get my period. Should I be concerned? What’s the long-term health impact of not getting your period?
Do not be concerned. It is very common to stop getting your period when you are on birth control pills. One of the effects of birth control is that it makes the lining of uterus thin. By making the lining of the uterus thin, there is no extra tissue to slough off monthly. There are no long-term health impacts of not getting your period. This does not affect your fertility or increase your risk of cancer. In fact, by preventing ovulation and maintaining a thin lining of the uterus, birth control can decrease your risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Have more questions for a gyno? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Gyno” in the subject line.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.