Height and weight. Blood pressure. Pelvic exam. They're all essential to help gain insight into your overall health and well-being—but they should also only be one part of your annual trip to the gynecologist.
The other part should involve detailed conversations, whether in person, virtually, or through email. Your gynecologist is there to guide you—and to answer any questions you have, regardless of how embarrassing they may seem.
If any of the following questions applies to you, see whether the potential causes are to blame. And if you can't find a solution? Make sure to add it to the list of questions you bring with you to your next visit. Rest assured, your gynecologist has very likely heard them before.
Sometimes I pee when I cough or sneeze. Do I have incontinence?
The short answer? Probably not. As we age, our bladders move closer to the earth, adding more pressure to the vagina (thanks, gravity!). Try Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, which supports everything from the uterus and bowels to the bladder and rectum.
Bonus: It also increases blood flow to the vagina, which can enhance sex.
Is it normal that I'm no longer interested in sex?
Speaking of sex, if you've tried seemingly everything and can't seem to get things going, imbalanced hormones could be the culprit. This is especially common if you've recently given birth or are entering a new phase of life, like menopause. But no matter where you are in life, balancing hormones is essential to optimal overall health.
Also, don't rule out stress. Stress can be a huge deterrent to getting aroused.
Is it normal that my breasts are different sizes?
Did you know that breast asymmetry affects more than half of all women? So you're definitely not alone, and it's definitely normal. It's typically not a red flag for anything more serious, but it's a good idea to talk with your gynecologist if you notice a sudden change in breast size.
Why does my vagina itch—and sometimes smell?
If you're anywhere near menopause, a drop in estrogen levels could be to blame. When there's less estrogen, there's less lubrication, which can lead to vaginal dryness and itching. Unfortunately, this can also more easily lead to yeast infections and bacterial infections, as well as sexually transmitted diseases.
Fortunately, masturbation and natural oils like coconut oil can help, so try those before reaching for the estrogen cream.
As for the smell, slight odors are perfectly normal. But if it's offensive enough to get your attention, tweaks to your routine may help. Make sure to use fragrance-free soap, avoid douching, wipe from front to back, and change underwear at least once daily. If nothing works, make sure to talk to your gynecologist at the next visit to rule out bacterial vaginosis.
Does my vagina look normal?
Vaginas are like snowflakes—no two are alike. And while there are diagrams in anatomy books of how things should look, yours is likely to be more of a variation. Plus, over time your vagina—or vulva, which is the external part—will change, especially if you have children.
That said, if you don't feel yours is normal and you're experiencing irritation or other issues—or any of these issues, really—bring it up at your next visit. You'll be glad you did.