Maybe you and your gynaecologist are pals and you share every last little detail about your sex life with him/her. But, realistically, that’s probably not the case, and you’re more likely to approach your annual gyno visit with trepidation, viewing those stirrups as a symbol of torture. And perhaps you don’t like talking about your vagina.
It’s important to remember, though, that your gynaecologist appointment is not the time to hold stuff back! In fact, the more info you share, the better — and these are some things you should never, ever be afraid to talk about with your doctor.
1. What’s really going on with your sex life
Although it can be hard to remember all the pleasurable things that happened to your vagina mid-smear test, don’t forget to mention what your lady parts do when they’re not freezing up while your feet are awkwardly positioned in stirrups.
If your vagina has seen several suitors in the last year, then it’s time to disclose that you’ve been with a lot of people. If you’ve been only with one guy for as long as you can remember, you should fill your gyno in on that, too. Why? It’s not so you can compare batting averages, or to make you feel ashamed, or to remind you about that annoying ‘dry spell.’ It’s so your gyno can know what to screen you for!
‘First and foremost, [you have to share your] number of sexual partners,’ says Laurie Birkholz, OB/GYN. ‘Just so we can help a patient in regards to assessing risk — including common things like HPV, and more significant things or more serious things like HIV. I’m always encouraging patients to be open. They may be a little embarrassed depending on that number, but believe me, as physicians, we’ve heard it all.’
Not all gynos want graphic specifics, though — they just want to know if you’ve had anything risky happen recently. ‘I don’t need to know all the nitty-gritty details,’ says Laurie Streicher, OB/GYN, ‘but if you did have unprotected sex and you are worried, don’t lie.’
Contrary to what some random person on the street might have told you, gynos cannot read your mind, and they also can’t just look at your vagina and say, ‘Oh, yes! That woman is in a faithful relationship and has only one sexual partner.’
2. If you smoke
‘Never lie about smoking,’ Streicher stresses. ‘A lot of times, if someone wants birth control and I’m deciding if it would be safe,’ she’ll ask them that. She says some people might be scared it will change her decision on whether to prescribe them birth control or not, ‘but the truth is their risk is going to change based on that – [with increased risks for] blood clot, heart attacks, or stroke.’
You should also be honest about how much you’re drinking — it’s important to know if you’re usually having, say, four drinks over the course of a night versus just one. Knowing about a patient’s drinking habits is crucial, Dweck explains.
(For example: If you’ve had a few drink-filled Saturday nights and missed your 10 p.m. contraceptive pill, your doctor might want to suggest a different kind of birth control is best for you.)
3. If you’re taking vitamins or supplements
Don’t let any lore fool you. No matter what vitamins or supplements you’re taking, tell. your. gyno. And if you are the kind of woman who takes various tablets, it’s important to share.
‘A little pet peeve of mine is not knowing what supplements people are taking,’ Dweck says. ‘You ask them about medications, and they say, “I just take a multivitamin,” and they fail to tell you that they’re taking five over-the-counter herbal supplements that could interfere with fertility or cause bleeding.’
4. If you’re experiencing any violence at home
Birkholz advises women to disclose if they’re experiencing any domestic violence, regardless of whether you’re pregnant. Pregnant women, though, can be especially vulnerable, she says. Why tell your gyno? Well, an August 2016 study conducted in Philadelphia revealed that partner violence might be one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths. Even if you’re not pregnant, your OB/GYN can connect you with someone who might be able to help.
5. If you’re scared about missing the boat for having kids
So you’re flying your single lady flag high and have chosen to suppress your desires to have kids some day, but you’re telling your therapist about how you secretly doodle stick figure mothers and daughters on the back of your business cards. Although you can keep this between you and your therapist, you should tell your gyno that you might want kids someday — even if it’s something that you feel can’t happen right now.
‘I think one thing patients never bring up is their timeline,’ Dweck says. ‘We don’t want to miss the window of opportunity. We should start asking questions about child-planning desires… because fertility does decline.’ For example, a doctor could talk to you about freezing your eggs if you want to have kids but motherhood seems galaxies away.
6. If you have any questions
Sugarcoating your sex life when your hairdresser implores you for gossip? Fine. But if you have any questions about your sex life or anything vagina-related, you should always bring them up with your gyno.
‘I always encourage patients to ask questions about sexuality if they’re having painful intercourse, if intercourse isn’t enjoyable, or if they’re thinking about using a vibrator or bringing some other item or idea into [your] sexual relationship,’ Birkholz says. ‘I think those are also important to speak with [your doctor] about, so we can help and provide resources and education.’
Once again: Gynos can’t read your minds or see into the past and future of your sex life by sticking a speculum up your vagina. They need guidance so that they can provide you with what you need for your own health.
Bottom line? ‘We just want to know the truth,’ Dweck says. ‘There’s really no judgment.’