Your gynecologist knows your vag inside and out (literally), but it can still be embarrassing to ask the questions we really want to get off our chests. But, seriously, it’s impossible to embarrass a gyno—they’ve heard (and seen) it all before, and they want to help.
Here, two gynecologists break down the questions they wish their patients would ask them at their annual checkups.
1. “Does my period have to suck this much?”
You hopefully already know that crippling cramps and soaking through tampons means something’s amiss, but things don’t have to get that dire before you’re all, WTF? Any good gyno will ask about your period, so give her the gory details. “I don’t only want to know what a patient’s period is like, but also how she feels about it,” says Nicole E. Williams, M.D., founder of the Gynecology Institute of Chicago.
Why? Because you don’t have to live with a heavy, crampy, sucky period, even one that’s “normal” (whatever that means), any more than you’ve got to live with your natural hair color.
2. “Can I just opt out of my period altogether?”
Hell yeah you can. Chalk it up to one more reason the Pill is straight-up magic; it literally can make your period disappear. “I want more patients to know that it’s okay not to have a period,” Dr. Williams says. “Some women feel like having a period, even on the Pill, is better or more ‘natural,’ but because you’re not ovulating, it’s a fake period anyway.” In fact, with a lot of hormonal birth control, the lining of the uterus is so thin it’s not necessary to bleed, she says. Ahhh, sweet freedom.
3. “What’s up with all this discharge?”
“So many of my patients, whether they’re young or older, are scared that any type of vaginal discharge is a disease, but that’s far from the truth,” Dr. Williams says. “The vagina is a self-cleaning oven for the most part, and that means it’s always making a small amount of liquid.” That liquid can either be clear, white, or light yellow and should have no or just a slight odor. “If there’s a strong smell or the color is a dark yellow or green, that’s when there may be a problem,” she says.
4. “How do I decide which birth control to use?”
You’ve got SO many choices! And, while that’s an awesome problem to have, it also means there’s SO much confusion out there, says Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, M.D., an ob-gyn in Beverly Hills, CA. “Deciding what’s right is a complex conversation, and it’s essential you thoroughly investigate your options with your doctor so you understand the differences,” she says.
So, talk about what you’ve heard, what you need, what you’re thinking, but be open-minded. Don’t just go with what all your friends use, stick with the one you’ve been using forever, or stay on the first one you tried if it’s not perfect. “Your doctor can help you move through the process of choosing a method and educate you,” she says.
5. “Ummm, can we talk about sex for a sec?”
Nothing, and we mean nothing, is TMI. “Sex and sexual function are such big topics, and there’s often a lot of shame around them or people are uncomfortable, but we can cover anything that’s going on,” Dr. Gilberg-Lenz says. Not having orgasms? Painful sex? Low libido? Wondering whether a certain sex act is okay to do? Bring it up!
“You deserve to understand your body, get good information, and have fun and enjoy sex,” she says. “Your doctor might not know all the answers, but we can help you find a sex therapist or doctor trained in sexual medicine if needed—or at least say, ‘Hey, let me look into that for you.’”
6. “Why do I pee a little when I laugh or sneeze?”
If you’re leaking, leak it to your doc. Urinary incontinence problems pop up most after childbirth or as you get older, but they can come on at any time and at any age. Unfortunately, a lot of women, especially younger ones, don’t talk about it because they’re embarrassed or think nothing can be done.
“All they see on TV is that they essentially have to wear a pull-up as an adult woman, which is insane,” Gilberg-Lenz says. “There are actually a million things we can do or recommend, like physical therapy or treatment with a specialized device we have in the office. You don’t have to suffer in silence.”
7. “Does my vagina look normal?”
Let your doctor assure you that whatever you’ve got goin’ on downstairs is not only normal—it’s perfect. “Unfortunately, the internet has allowed for a lot of misinformation about what a vagina is supposed to look like or what is the ideal,” Dr. Williams says. “But vaginas are like fingerprints; each one is different. My job is to empower patients and make them feel good about what they’ve got, because they’re all good, they’re all glorious.” Enough said!
8. “I think I might be depressed/have anxiety/need therapy—now what?”
Okay, so not a question per se, but your gyno 100 percent wants to talk about what’s going on in your head as much as what’s going on in your uterus. “There’s a term I’ve heard: gynechiatrist,” Dr. Gilberg-Lenz says. “Mental health is huge for us.”
For starters, your doc can help you figure out if your feelings are somehow related to your cycle or PMS. “If they are, we can treat that with birth control pills or low-dose Prozac or other medications,” Dr. Williams says. “If not, I have resources and can direct you to the right place, which is a lot better than going it alone on the internet.”
9. “Am I drinking too much?”
“There can be a lot of intimacy in the relationship between gynecologist and patient, and I want my patients to tell me things or ask about things they may not be comfortable talking about with others,” Dr. Gilberg-Lenz says. “I’ve had people tell me they got sober because of me, because I listened and then called them out in a loving way.”
Maybe it’s not drinking for you—maybe it’s drugs or an crappy relationship or some other nagging topic or situation. Whatever it is, know this: “We are paying attention and we can help you find help,” she says.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.