The Fact of Your Sex Life

When it comes to your annual gynae visit, there's no such thing as too much info. Your doctor needs to hear all your down- below details, which is why he or she asks you super personal stuff. You may be tempted to dodge the queries because you sense the truth could prompt a judgmental lecture, but that won't happen with a good gynae. Doctors have seen and heard it all. Their job is to keep you healthy, and they can't do that without knowing the answers to probing questions. So don't feel singled out or embarrassed. If you dish any of the statements here and they're nonsense, you won't get the help you need — such as effective sexually transmitted disease (STD) medication, suitable birth control or potentially life-saving cancer screenings. 


Whether you feel chafed, experience sharp pain when your guy thrusts deeply or stiffer yeast infections after sex, don't be weirded out by telling your doctor. Many sex issues have a purely physical cause, which makes your doctor the right person to figure out what's going on. For example, chafing could be the result of a lack of lubrication due to a birth-control pill messing with your hormone levels. Your doctor can put you on a pill that won't have that effect. Pain when your guy thrusts may signal an ovarian cyst or fibroid, two common benign growths that can be treated. And there are ways to avoid sex- triggered yeast infections, so inform your doctor about anything odd: tenderness, burning, bleeding and any pain. 


It broke, your guy failed to put it on or your stash was empty so you decided to wing it. You don't have to explain why you had unsafe sex but you must let your gynae know it happened. If not, you might leave her office without being tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea or HIV — all of which you can contract after just one round of condomless mattress wrestling with a guy whose STD status is a question mark. Genital herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) are also a risk, but gynaes generally don't test for those unless you're showing symptoms or you've had an irregular Pap smear. Many young women assume their gynae automatically screens them for all STDs during their annual exam, so they don't have to own up to not using protection. But while your gynae is supposed to test you routinely for gonorrhea and chlamydia if you're under 25, not all do. And if you're over 25, you have to speak up. The consequences of an infection are much more frightening than the discomfort of telling a doctor that you didn't use a condom: chlamydia and gonorrhea, if left untreated, can damage your reproductive tract and leave you infertile. And HIV, as you know, is incurable and potentially fatal, but can be managed with meds if caught early. 

couple doing it on bed


Maybe you fudge it on this one because you're not a pack-a-day addict and you don't think that an occasional cigarette has anything to do with your lady parts. You're wrong. Smoking any amount affects your birth-control choices, puts you at a higher risk of infection and may alter your fertility. Women who smoke and use hormonal birth control have an increased risk of lethal blood clots. Cigarettes also wear down the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to HPV-related problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer. Studies link tobacco to egg abnormalities plus a higher miscarriage rate. Bottom line: coming clean about smoking will let your doctor tailor your examination to your needs. 


Even a diligent woman might forget to pop her pill now and then. But if you repeatedly forget more than once per cycle, you're short-changing yourself by lying about it to your gynae. Not only are you upping your risk of falling pregnant, you're also missing the chance to try a method better suited to you — one you don't have to worry about daily. If you tend to forget to take the pill, your gynae will want to help you find another option. Luckily, there are plenty out there. The ring may be more up your alley because you leave it in for three weeks at a time. The birth-control shot is good, too, and effective for three months. And if you really don't want to be bothered by birth control, your gynae may suggest an intrauterine device, which can last for up to 10 years. 


STDs have a dodgy reputation. So while you may not want to own up to having one now or that you were diagnosed and cured in the past, you really have to banish the fear of your doctor getting `judgy'. Your doctor need to know if a patient has a recurrent STD such as herpes or HPV so they can help you manage those conditions. Your doctor can let you know about new prescriptions that can ease outbreaks or help you get a handle on making outbreaks less frequent. And if you've previously had an STD and received effective treatment, you're still not off the hook. Many women think, "Oh, I had chlamydia/gonorrhea 10 years ago and got rid of it with antibiotics. Why is it relevant now?" But curable STDs can still influence your present sexual health, putting you at a higher risk of Fallopian-tube scarring and infertility downs the road. Being aware you had chlamydia, for example, can help her figure out why you may have trouble conceiving in the future or what the source of any scar tissue may be.

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