10 Things Your Gyno Wants You to Stop Doing Right Now
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10 Things Your Gyno Wants You to Stop Doing Right Now

When it comes to your vagina, here are a few things you should know.

1 / 11

By Olivia DeLong 

You’re probably pretty picky when it comes to choosing your gynecologist. You want your gyno to be approachable, attentive and knowledgeable. Well, this might come as a surprise—your gyno has a wish list of his or her own, too.

From skipping your annual visit to withholding your family’s medical history, OBGYN Elizabeth Newell, MD, of Swedish Medical Center in Littleton, Colorado reveals all of the things your gynos wishes you’d stop doing.

Douching on the reg

2 / 11 Douching on the reg

Your vagina is like a self-cleaning oven—it naturally regulates healthy bacteria that help protect it from infections and irritations. Douching, a practice that involves squirting a mixture of fluids like water and vinegar up the vagina, can actually encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

And if you already have a vaginal infection of some sort, douching may push the bacteria to other areas like your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. Bacteria in these areas could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection in your reproductive organs.

“Douching will actually put you at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections,” says Newell. Your vagina naturally makes mucous to clean away any blood, semen or discharge, so as long as you’re taking regular showers or baths with warm water, your vagina will clean itself.

Skipping your annual appointment

3 / 11 Skipping your annual appointment

Most women aren’t required to get a Pap smear or cervical cancer screening annually, but you should still see your gyno every year anyway, says Newell.

Annual checkups—which may or may not include a pelvic exam—are helpful because your gynecologist can go over changes in your family history and can discuss sexual activity, vaccinations, periods and fertility plans. “We’re doing a lot more genetic screening for certain cancers like Lynch Syndrome, uterine ovarian cancer and breast cancer,” says Newell.

When it comes to cervical cancer screening, women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap smear every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap smear and an HPV test every five years. And if any out of the ordinary symptoms like heavier-than-normal menstrual bleeding, pain, dizziness or unexplained discharge come up between appointments, your gynecologist will want to see you then, too.

Thinking they care that you shave

4 / 11 Thinking they care that you shave

If you’re worried that your gyno is judging you because you shave your legs or vagina—or because you don’t—you shouldn’t be. “We don’t care if people shave their vagina or their legs. We see all sorts of things all day long, so it doesn’t matter to us,” says Newell.

If you do shave your pubic hairs, that’s okay, but if you’re having razor burn or bumps, Newell recommends trimming or waxing instead. “Shaving does put you at a higher risk of the infection folliculitis, chemical burn and blisters.” Practice good shaving hygiene if you do decide to shave: use shaving cream or gel, shave in the direction that the hair grows and make sure to use unscented lotion to soothe the area afterwards.

Being afraid to ask questions about sex or sexuality

5 / 11 Being afraid to ask questions about sex or sexuality

“I think patients either forget to ask questions or they’re too embarrassed to ask them,” says Newell. Gynecologists talk about sexual health issues all day long, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about painful sex, period cramps, anal intercourse and other sexual habits.  

Gynecologists are comfortable talking about sexuality, too. “We want our offices to be safe spaces for people; places where they feel like they’re accepted,” says Newell. And if your sexual preferences change—your gyno understands that, too. Still nervous? Write down your questions prior to your appointment so you’re prepared.

Believing you’ll always have symptoms if you have a STI

6 / 11 Believing you’ll always have symptoms if you have a STI

Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes have very mild symptoms like abnormal vaginal discharge or pain when urinating, or no symptoms at all.

“I have a lot of patients who come in and say they’ve been with a new partner or two in the last year, but don’t come in to get tested because they haven’t had any problems or symptoms,” says Newell. Don’t assume you’re STD or STI free just because you think you’re symptom-free. If STDs go undetected, it could potentially lead to infertility issues or even cervical cancer down the road.

Symptoms or no symptoms—if you’re sexually active with a new partner, let your gyno know so they can test for STDs and STIs, says Newell.

Self-treating

7 / 11 Self-treating

Googling symptoms like itching, frequent urination or funky discharge is okay, and most likely it’s something treatable like a urinary tract infection (UTI) or yeast infection. But after your Google search—head to the lady doctor for a confirmation.

 There are a lot of other health conditions that have the same symptoms as a yeast infection and if you take the wrong over-the-counter medication, it may not work, says Newell. For example, some of the most common symptoms of a UTI are frequent or painful urination and cloudy urine. These two symptoms could also indicate you have kidney stones.

So, next time you experience unusual symptoms, schedule a doc appointment (and be prepared to give them a sample) so they can properly treat your issue.

Cancelling your appointment because you’re on your period

8 / 11 Cancelling your appointment because you’re on your period

Women, rejoice! You don’t have to cancel your gyno appointment just because your period started that day, says Newell.

“We still want women to come in. We can still get a pretty good sample during the Pap smear, even when you’re on your period.” In fact, she says it’s rare that your doc won’t be able to get a proper sample.

And if you think your gynecologist cares about the extra mess, they don’t. “We’re used to people being on their periods or having spotting.”

While you can go in when you’re on your period, if you’re tracking your period and it’s pretty regular, it can be helpful to schedule your annual appointment 10 to 20 days after your period starts. Nowadays, there are lots of ways to track your menstrual cycle using apps on your phone, too.

Withholding medical or genetic history

9 / 11 Withholding medical or genetic history

Your gyno needs to know your personal and family medical history because certain conditions like cancer can impact your screening timelines. 

“New cancers in the family or someone in the family passing away from a heart attack are good things for us to know,” says Newell. Your gynecologist will use your family history to make recommendations about screening for things like heart disease, uterine cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer.

Consider making a family medical tree and giving it to all of your doctors. You’ll want to include date of birth, date of death (if applicable) and any medical conditions or surgeries your family member has had. It can helpful to include this info for your grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and grandchildren. And if anything changes, keep your doctors updated as you have more info.

Copping an attitude when they’re running late

10 / 11 Copping an attitude when they’re running late

If you’re gyno is running behind schedule, think about this before you get upset: “Sometimes we have to give bad news to someone, spend time with someone who is critically ill, just had a miscarriage or just found out they’re pregnant, and that extra 30 minutes of comfort really helps them,” says Newell.

If you’ve been in the waiting room a long time, feel free to ask the nurse or front desk attendant for an update, but understand there’s probably a good reason they’re late.

Applying scented soaps and other products

11 / 11 Applying scented soaps and other products

Don’t worry—you can still wind down with a bath after a long day at work, but you should choose your products wisely.

When it comes to products you’re using around your vaginal areas, scented ones can up your risk of yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. Opt for tampons, pads, soaps, powders and sprays that are unscented. And when it comes to cleaning your vaginal area in the bath or shower, warm water works just fine, and a little bit of mild soap is okay for some women, too. If you have sensitive skin though, steer clear of even mild soaps; they can dry out or irritate the area.

Gynecology

Gynecology

There are many key areas in the field of female reproductive system health, including menstruation, pregnancy, fertility, and menopause. As a woman, you may be concerned about other issues related to your sexual health, including ...

genital problems and sexually transmitted diseases. If you are a female that is sexually active, or over the age of 18, it is important to begin seeing a womans' health specialist in order to make sure that your reproductive system stays healthy. Before that, any concerns with menstruation should be addressed with a physician. As you get older, most women become concerned with issues pertaining to avoiding or achieving pregnancy, until menopause begins around age 50.
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