It’s time for your annual gynecological checkup. You may have some concerns, but aren’t quite sure how to ask about them. Maybe you’re too embarrassed, or you think your doctor has never heard that question.
Know this: Your doctor can’t read your mind. Secondly: You’re not going to shock your ob-gyn. They have heard every question imaginable.
So talk matter-of-factly about any symptoms or concerns about your health. Take a list of questions to your appointment so you don’t forget anything.
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Five Ways to Start the Conversation
Part of your doctor’s job is explaining women’s health issues. So ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.
1. What screenings and tests should I have at my age?
This question opens up the discussion of concerns specific to your season of life. If you’re in your 20s, that conversation will be different from someone approaching menopause.
Your doctor will explain and recommend the appropriate tests — including mammograms and Pap smears — depending on your age and medical history.
2. I’ve heard a lot about the HPV shot — do I need one? If so, why?
Your doctor can answer questions about the HPV vaccine.
The vaccine protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), which spreads through skin-to-skin contact. HPV can lead to cervical and other cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV causes nearly 35,000 cases of cancer each year.
The CDC recommends the vaccine for adolescent boys and girls, as well as for adults through their mid-20s.
3. I sometimes pee a little when I laugh or sneeze — what’s going on?
It’s a common complaint. The muscles that control your ability to hold urine often weaken as you age — especially if you’ve had children. You may leak urine when you laugh, lift something heavy, cough, or sneeze.
Fortunately, there are fixes for urinary incontinence, starting with pelvic floor exercises. Depending on the cause of your leaks, surgery may be an option.
4. My partner and I have been trying to get pregnant for several months with no luck. Is something wrong?
Doctors hear this question all the time. It’s normal to take up to a year to get pregnant, even when you’re actively trying. When you’re waiting for a positive pregnancy test, each day can feel long.
Your doctor may reassure you that what you’re experiencing is normal, or help you find ways to boost fertility. If you haven’t conceived within a year (six months if you’re over 35), your ob-gyn may refer you to a fertility specialist.
If you’re having fertility problems, don’t give up. There are many options. Asking your doctor specific questions is the first step.
5. I’m having symptoms of menopause, but I’m still in my 30s. What gives?
When something changes in your body, it’s hard to tell what’s normal and what’s not. Talking frankly to your doctor can reassure you. The more questions you ask, the better prepared you’ll feel.
Irregular periods and hot flashes can signal early menopause. But they could be symptoms of perimenopause, which is the period of time when the body is getting ready for menopause. That transitional period can last for years.
Your questions and concerns, combined with a physical exam, help to give your doctor a complete picture of your gynecological health.
If you’re having communication problems — your doctor is abrupt, doesn’t listen, or won’t answer your questions — it might be time to look for a new ob-gyn. Your health is too important.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Urinary Incontinence
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, HPV Vaccination
National Institutes of Health, Infertility and Fertility
The Centers for Disease Control, How Many Cancers Are Linked With HPV Each Year?
The Centers for Disease Control, HPV Vaccine Schedule and Dosing
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For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.