I was recently the featured speaker at a symposium for women aimed at helping women transition through various stages of their life. Specifically as relates to divorce, entering/exiting the work force, dealing with loss, etc. While the founder’s of the organization happen to be friends of mine, what better individual to discuss transitions in a woman’s life? I mean, HELLO, an obgyn transitions with women throughout every phase of her life, from menarche(when a woman first gets her period) to menopause.
The discussion centered around questions that women are embarrassed to ask their obgyns. While one might think this would be pretty routine for me, it actually proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought. Why? Because I’m Dr. Angela and most of my patients and lots of women ALL over the world ask me questions on a daily basis. There is no embarrassment. Not even a hint of it.
So. I decided to take another approach. How about your friend. I mean, we all have friends that have questions that they are too ashamed to ask. Here are the top questions I was able to come up with.
- Is vaginal discharge normal?
I love this question. Discharge is like the new milk. Got Discharge? Of course you do. We all do. Everyone has it, yet no one talks about it. Here’s the scoop on discharge, as long as it doesn’t itch, burn, or smell bad; it’s probably fine. You will find that the amount of discharge you have will vary in amount as well as consistency depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Trust me. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.
2. One of my breasts are larger than the other. Is this normal?
A resounding YES! There are so many variants of normal that I’ve frankly lost count. You’d be pressed to find any woman with two breasts that match exactly.
3. One of my labia is larger than the other. Is this normal?
As with the breast, the same applies here. YES! One of the reasons it is so important to bring young girls to a meet and greet with their ob/gyn between the ages of 13 and 15 is so that a discussion can be had about anatomy, and what’s considered normal/abnormal. Knowledge is power. Self love and acceptance begins at a very early age. Learning early on about the magnificence and beauty of the female body would certainly help to alleviate issues with body image and self consciousness that often affect our youth and women in general, regardless of age.
4. Is sex supposed to hurt?
I see so many women suffering through sex because they feel like they are supposed to as part of their “wifely” or “partner” duties. Girl, you better recognize! Recognize that sex is supposed to be fun, pleasurable, hot, and so on and so forth. If sex is painful for you there needs to be an investigation as to why. If you aren’t lubricating enough, Astroglide certainly has you covered in that department with a lube for every occasion.
Perhaps something else is going on like vaginitis? Vaginitis, whether it be yeast or bacterial vaginosis, are common infections that can cause painful sex. Certainly other sorts of infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc, could be ruled out if you are at risk.
There could also be underlying issues such as endometriosis. Lots of folks ignore common signs of endometriosis. Painful sex is one of them. Be sure to touch base with your obgyn to ensure that all is well.
5. How do you do a breast exam?
I promise. You are probably doing it right and don’t even know it. I commonly hear, “I don’t know what I’m feeling or looking for.” “My breasts feel lumpy all over and all the time.” In all seriousness, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends something called Breast Awareness. What that means, is YOU knowing what your breasts normally look and feel like. Look at your breasts. Feel your breasts. Don’t be embarrassed. They are yours! The key is being able to notice anything that is outside of your norm. I typically recommend feeling/touching/squeezing your breasts a week or so after you’ve had your period, that way, your breasts won’t be as tender or fibrocystic(lumpy-bumpy). Both of which are common around the time of your period. And since we’re on the topic, mammograms start at the age of 40. There is no medical need for a baseline mammogram. The only way a mammogram is typically done earlier than forty would be if something was noted on exam; i.e., you felt a lump, or if you had a first degree relative with a history of breast cancer. The recommendation would then be 10 years prior to the age the affected relative was diagnosed.
6. My vagina smells. Is this normal?
Mind you, vaginas are supposed to smell like vaginas, not bouquets, floral gardens, candy, etc. Having said such, if your vagina truly does smell foul, that might warrant a bit of a workup by your friendly obgyn. Bacterial vaginosis is a common culprit and is primarily caused by a shift in your vaginal pH.
The vagina prefers to be acidic and with bacterial vaginosis, due to an overgrowth of certain bacterias in the vagina, the pH becomes basic, and causes an amine, or fish-like odor. There are other types of infections that could also cause the vagina to smell other than vagina-like. These to can be ruled out by your obgyn.
Whether it’s related to your vagina, breasts, discharge, sex, or your health in general. If you’ve got questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your obgyn. Or, remember, if you ask, I’ll definitely tell.
Everyone’s Favorite OB/GYN
Wife, mother, Midwesterner, and award-winning OB/GYN, Dr. Angela is equal parts best girlfriend and bold professional, supporting women’s health with innovative approaches to care and heavy doses of humor. Dr. Angela has done more than launch a successful practice, she has defined herself as a voice for a new generation of womanhood, established her ASK DR. ANGELA brand committed to authenticity, and built a community rooted in trust, candor, and compassion.