To quell your anxiety, we asked five ob-gyns to tell us what they really want us to know about our regular visits.
There are some things that are a given when it comes to your regular ob-gyn appointments: you'll probably get pee shy, the stirrups will be uncomfortable, and you'll obsess about what exactly is going through your doctor's head when she's poking around down there.
To quell your anxiety, we asked five ob-gyns to tell us what they really want us to know about our regular visits. What they revealed made us realize a few things: They don't give AF about what you do with your body hair, there's very little that embarrasses them, and they only really care that you're honest. Here's exactly what they had to say.
It’s the telltale predicament you always seem to find yourself in: It’s the night before your gyno appointment, and all of a sudden it hits you—your downstairs region isn’t exactly, err, groomed. If the thought of stripping down without a clean-up drives you bonkers, go ahead and do what you have to do. Otherwise, forget about it, because your gyno doesn’t care. “You don't have to shave your legs or wax your vulva,” says Draion M. Burch, D.O., a board-certified ob-gyn and sexual health advisor for Astroglide. “I'm not paying any attention to those things.”
“Patients worry about how their vagina smells, but I actually worry about how their feet are going to smell,” says Burch. “When a patient is getting a Pap smear, her feet are the closest to my nose.” Fair enough, fair enough.
So many women are terrified of pooping while giving birth, but doctors couldn’t care less. “Nearly all women poop while pushing out their babies,” says Leena Shankar Nathan, M.D., associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA. “We are used to it and know how to deal with it, so just accept that it’s probably going to happen and don't worry about having a bowel movement in front of us.” In other words, keep calm and push on.
Let’s get one thing straight: Menstrual blood does not make your ob-gyn queasy, so if you calculated your dates wrong (or simply forgot) and wound up with your period on check-in day, don’t reschedule. “Births, particularly C-sections, are quite bloody, so I can assure you that you having your period while I’m examining you is not a problem in the slightest,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. Just be sure to call your doctor’s office ahead of time if you’re due for a Pap smear—some offices use an updated test that can separate menstrual blood from cervical cells, but others don’t, so you’ll need to know your office’s capabilities.
You might feel awkward describing that downstairs itch, but Barb DePree, M.D., director of women’s midlife services at Holland Hospital in Holland, MI, says it’s actually important that you fess up to those kinds of details—especially because an exam can really help. “If you are experiencing itching in your vulva, it actually isn't all that likely to be a yeast infection,” she says. “It’s more likely to be related to something that caused contact irritation, or a vulvar skin issue. Some women put up with months to years of irritation before seeking an exam, so don't assume itching and irritation is just a normal part of life for women. It isn't!”
The best kind of birth control is different for every woman, and ob-gyns will do their best to guide you to the method that’s right for you…but the truth is that there’s one they think rises above the rest: IUDs. Why? They’re safe, long-acting, and require no upkeep: a win-win-win for doctors and patients alike, says Leah Torres, M.D., an OB/GYN in Salt Lake City. And Nathan agrees: “The levenoregesterol IUD (aka Mirena) is our go-to contraceptive for patients,” she says. “It decreases bleeding and cramping, and can even help prevent uterine cancer.”
Knowing about your sex life, including what kinds of sex you have (anal, vaginal, oral, etc.) and what your gender preference is will help your doctor provide the best care, says Nathan. And don’t lie about how many sexual partners you’ve had or currently have. “We are not here to judge,” she says. “We only want to help you by screening for [appropriate] sexually transmitted diseases and counseling you about safe sex.”