There are some things that you’d barely consider telling your best friend—let alone your gynecologist. But the truth is, they’ve heard and seen it all. Plus, there are some things that, while embarrassing, could be really vital when it comes to taking care of your sexual and reproductive health. Here, eleven things you should definitely tell your gynecologist:
How Many Sexual Partners You’ve Had
Has it been a particularly eventful year? Tell your gyno that—even if she doesn’t ask. She’s not going to judge you, and this is really useful information from a medical standpoint, says ob-gyn Alyssa Dweck, M.D., coauthor of V is For Vagina. “The more information that’s disclosed that seems to be relevant, the more individualized care that can be given.”
If You’ve Had Unprotected Sex—Even Once
So you slipped up and didn’t use a condom a while back, but since then you’ve gotten your period and haven’t noticed any signs of an STD. You’re in the clear, right? Not exactly. Some STDs, like Chlamydia, are often completely symptomless, while others like HPV can lay dormant for years, says Dweck. It’s your responsibility to tell your doctor if you may be at risk for these after having unprotected sex.
If You’re Not Able to Orgasm
Just think about it—unless you’re seeing a sex therapist, who else would you go to for sexual dysfunction issues? Your gynecologist knows what you’re working with and wants to help. “If you’re having orgasm issues, that’s something we can usually help with,” says Dweck. “It may require a referral, or it may be a signal of another type of health problem going on.”
If You Occasionally Bleed After Sex
If it’s just one time after particularly rough sex, you probably don’t have to run to the doctor, says Dweck. But if it’s more than once, you should let your gyno know. Bleeding after sex can signify anything from an infection or dryness problem to a precancerous cervical issue. It’s better to be safe than embarrassed.
If Your Period Has Been Wonky Lately
Even if you’re sure you’re not pregnant, changes in your period are something you should definitely bring up to your doctor. If your flow is much heavier or lighter than normal, it can be the result of so many different things, says Dweck, including hormonal imbalances, a cyst, or an infection.
If Sex is Painful
Don’t be shy—chances are your gyno can help with this. It may be due to a slight tilt in your uterus, or you may be suffering from vaginal dryness, says ob-gyn Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine. That’s not just a problem for older women—it’s an issue that many younger women deal with, too, and it may even be a side effect of your birth control. Bring it up for the sake of your sex life.
What Medications or Supplements You’re Taking
This is important for so many reasons—whether you’re starting a new birth control regimen, trying to get pregnant, or require surgery, says Dweck. Even herbal supplements can have contraindications, so let your gyno know exactly what you’re taking.
If You’ve Been Sexually Abused
Whether you’re looking for someone to talk to, worried about STDs, or seeking resources that can help, your gynecologist can point you in the right direction. This is especially important for the many women who don’t have a primary care doctor, says Dweck, since their gynecologist could be the only one they see on a yearly basis. “Many patients may not know that their gynecologist could be the person to offer some assistance,” says Dweck.
If You Notice a Funky Smell
This is usually a sign of an infection or pH imbalance, which your gynecologist can treat. Interestingly, Dweck mentioned another common culprit: a tampon (or piece of a tampon) that was left inside you. Minor changes in odor around your period are normal, but if you notice something super off, call up your gyno.
What You’re Thinking About Pregnancy and Fertility
This isn’t just something to bring up to your gyno when you run into a roadblock. If you’re considering getting pregnant in the next year, definitely tell your doctor, says Minkin. They can give you helpful tips and medical advice that they wouldn’t normally offer up on a regular visit. And even if you aren’t planning a pregnancy right now, it’s a good idea to broach the topic of fertility with your doctor if you’re ever concerned. They can tell you about healthy habits that will help preserve fertility and address any concerns you may have. “My job is to make sure women don’t get pregnant when they don’t want to and do get pregnant when they do want to,” says Minkin.
If Your Sleep and Your Periods Have Been Off Lately
If you’re in your early forties, these could be signs of perimenopause, says Minkin. While it’s rare to start seeing symptoms this early, it’s definitely not unheard of, she says. Bringing these symptoms up to your gynecologist may help you pinpoint the cause early on.
Well, it’s not that easy, considering the fact that we live in a ‘secretive’ society. It’s only when push comes to shove that people start confessing!