Navigating female sexual and reproductive health issues can be overwhelming. The good news? No woman ever has to do this alone. Fostering an open, trusting relationship with your OB/GYN will help eliminate the fear, shame and stigma surrounding the common issues women experience “down there.”
Talking it Out
As a society, we so often fail to address common physical and mental wellness concerns, especially when it comes to women’s health. Avoiding these subjects on such a large scale can make bringing them up to your doctor feel unnatural or embarrassing, but your health should never be a taboo subject.
Your gynecologist is there to advocate for your health, not to embarrass or judge. Being honest with your answers and expressing your concerns will allow them to provide the best individualized care available, which is exactly what they want to do. It is important to remember that these are safe spaces. Your doctor will do all they can to be respectful and considerate during physicals and screenings, and will ensure that your information remains confidential.
While some of the questions asked during exams and routine checkups may feel invasive or overly personal, they are merely a way for your doctor to gauge the best course of preventative and reactive treatment.
Much of the anxiety that women experience before visiting a gynecologist comes from uncertainty. Knowing what to expect during your initial visit or routine checkups can help to eliminate some of this fear. It is completely acceptable for the first visit to be conversational, allowing you to get to know your doctor and helping you feel more comfortable during the following exams.
Not knowing what’s normal may also hinder women from mentioning their concerns to their doctor. OB/GYNs specialize in treating a multitude of sexual, reproductive, physical and mental health issues. They are coordinators for advanced care and can also provide help with more ordinary conditions.
Here are just a few of the common issues your OB/GYN can help with:
Vaginal Infections – Yeast infections and other common irritations sometimes occur after normal hormonal shifts in the body, or the typical estrogen fluctuations that women experience during menstruation and menopause. They may also result from poor hygiene, excess moisture or added irritation in or around the genitals. Yeast infections become more common during pregnancy, and those with diabetes are also likely to experience them more frequently.
UTIs – Around 50-60% of women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point. Symptoms usually include burning or itching while urinating, frequent urination or excessive pain or cramping in the lower abdomen. UTIs can be diagnosed with a quick physical exam or urine test, and can sometimes be prevented by staying hydrated, avoiding the use of vaginal douches or heavily-scented soaps and lotions, and by limiting excess moisture.
Abnormal Bleeding – Women are often surprised to learn that abnormal bleeding is actually quite normal – to a certain extent. Sudden changes in your menstrual cycle, spotting in between periods and other atypical bleeding concerns have many forms. Each body is different but more often than not, these are one-off issues. While abnormal bleeding is one of the most common concerns women express to their gynecologists, it is still important to notify your doctor when this occurs so that they can be sure these symptoms aren’t indicative of a more serious issue.
Although many women experience these problems, it can be risky to ignore them or to delay treatment for any reason. Avoiding your concerns or waiting to involve your doctor until your symptoms are severe can lead to much more serious health problems.
Life Long Care
The benefits of building a strong relationship with your primary care provider are often stressed, but it is just as important for women to form trusted relationships with their gynecologists as well. Most women will have their first visit or exam in their teens or early 20s, but OB/GYNs care for patients in every stage of life.
At South Shore Health and their dedicated Women’s Center, a multi-disciplinary group of OB/GYNs, minimally-invasive specialists, oncologists, RNs and midwives offer patients a completely comprehensive and highly-individualized care experience. This collaborative team is committed to offering as many care options to their patients as possible. Nearly all exams, screening and lab tests are conducted on site.
Patients also have access to additional support and informational resources, like the SSH Babies app for expectant mothers, breastfeeding, pregnancy and childbirth classes, and a network of specialized maternity care and fertility consultants that are available for consult.