8 Questions You’re Embarrassed to Ask Your Gynecologist
December 09, 2016
Women should never assume that ignorance is bliss when it comes to questions regarding their sexuality, anatomy and well-being.
“Most women feel uncomfortable asking their gynecologists about their sexual health,” says Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, Division Chief of OB/GYN Behavioral Medicine at University Hospitals.
“Yet, having a frank discussion with your gynecologist can be vitally important to prevent or treat sexual problems," she says. "If your provider does not initiate a conversation about your overall sexual health, you should feel empowered to do so yourself.”
Dr. Kingsberg answers eight questions that women are often too embarrassed to ask their gynecologists.
Do I look normal down there?
“Advertising, social media and unscrupulous doctors are all guilty of 'genital shaming' – telling women they must have the perfect-looking labia, clitoris and vulva, even though there is no such thing as the right look,” she says. “Unless a woman is having pain or problems with the function of her labia, clitoris or vulva, more than likely these areas of the female anatomy are perfectly normal and healthy. Proceed with caution if a provider advertises vaginal rejuvenation or labiaplasty for aesthetic reasons.”
Why is sex painful?
When a woman experiences pain during sex, it's usually caused by an underlying medical reason, such as loss of estrogen levels at menopause, a vaginal infection or a dermatologic condition, Dr. Kingsberg says.
“Breast-feeding mothers and postmenopausal woman both have lower estrogen levels, which causes vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal tissue,” she says. “This pain can be helped short-term by the use of vaginal lubricants during sexual activity or very safe local vaginal estrogens in the form of a cream, pill or long-acting ring all inserted vaginally. If your pain is persistent, you should see your gynecologist so he/she can properly diagnose the cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.”
Is it normal to have vaginal discharge?
Clear or milky white vaginal discharge in premenopausal women is a sign of good vaginal health. However, if the discharge changes color or has a foul-smelling odor, it can be a sign of bacterial overgrowth or a vaginal infection.
Why is it so hard to have an orgasm with my partner?
“The majority of women cannot achieve an orgasm while having penetrative sex,” Dr. Kingsberg says. “Clitoral stimulation is key for most women to achieve orgasm. It's normal for women to have their most reliable orgasms with manual stimulation, oral sex or with a vibrator.”
Is using a sex toy bad for my relationship?
“No,” she says. “It's estimated that 51 percent of American women own a vibrator, which should help women recognize it is totally normal. Many couples also incorporate sex toys into their lovemaking.”
Can older women enjoy sex?
“The end of a woman’s reproductive life doesn't mean the end of her sex life,” Dr. Kingsberg says. “The majority of women in their 70s and 80s want to remain sexually active. Often, the key predictor for having an active sex life as one ages is having an available partner, but self-stimulation is always an option too.”
Should I ask a man to use a condom if I've gone through menopause?
“Absolutely,“ she says. “The issue is no longer protection against pregnancy, but against sexually transmitted infections. Older vaginal tissue is more susceptible to infection. Many don't know that in addition to male condoms, there is a female condom that can be inserted before sex. This gives women more control and allows for spontaneity. Also, make sure you wash your sex toys.”
What can I do about low libido?
“The most common sexual problem for women is loss of sexual desire,” Dr. Kingsberg says. “Women want to 'want' – they want their desire back and talking to your provider is the best thing you can do. Don't suffer in silence. Your gynecologist has many options to help you."
The Female Sexual Health Program at University Hospitals is dedicated to addressing all of the sexual health concerns women may have throughout their lifetime. Our primary goal is to provide a unique and open environment of care where women feel empowered, confident and comfortable discussing this important aspect of their health.