So you’re on your way to the doctor in a cold sweat—not because it’s one of your symptoms, but because you’re anxiously awaiting the ultra-embarrassing questions you need to ask. Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate goes up and the nurse checking your temperature wants to know if you ran a marathon before arriving at the office.
Photo credit: Cathy Yeulet / Hemera / 360 / Getty images
Calm down, girl! Everyone gets nervous about those awkward questions. We asked Gail O’Neill, a senior physical therapist at Shift PT in New York City, why it’s important to ask those cringey questions and how your doctor might address them.
“Why do I smell like that… there?”
We’ve all experienced it. Suddenly you’re not smelling so fresh, and maybe you’re even a little bit itchy. O’Neill, who specializes in pelvic floor issues, says it’s time to give the scented soaps a rest if you want to smell better. Counterintuitive, but good advice.
“The vagina is perfectly pH-balanced with a healthy amount of necessary bacteria and a few yeast cells, so much so that it is not necessary to wash this part of your body with anything else but water,” O’Neill says.
It might seem like an innocent but blush-worthy problem, but you need to ask your doctor about this one. A fishy, unpleasant odor can be a warning sign of bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. If left untreated, the vulva can become painful, itchy and swollen.
“I pee a little when I cough…”
You’re out for drinks with the girls and suddenly your BFF brings up that horrible date you had in your 20s. You laugh until you cry, and then you laugh until you leak. Many women experience “leakage” when they sneeze, cough, laugh or perform strenuous exercise. But it doesn’t have to become your norm.
“When your pelvic and sphincter muscles are strong, they can respond to the extra intra-abdominal pressure from a cough, sneeze, exercise or laugh,” O’Neill says. “But when those muscles are weak, that sudden pressure can push urine out of the bladder, causing you to leak.”
“I’m really sweating a lot.”
Excessive sweating can be a seriously embarrassing problem when you’re not even exercising — you’re just trying to go about your day!
Sweating is usually normal, but if you’re sweating too much, it might be a sign of a greater problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can be a sign of diabetes, endocarditis, hyperthyroidism or an anxiety disorder. Heck, you might just be going through menopause. Check with your doctor. They’ll run some tests to make sure you’re in good shape.
“So… I’ve had a lot of gas.”
We’ve all been there after a meal heavy on the fibrous vegetables (d*** you, Brussels sprouts!), but when the gas comes after every meal, it might be time to seek help from your doctor.
Disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and irritants like lactose can cause frequent and excessive gas. You may need to be medicated for the condition, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Consult the doctor to determine if you’re just a veggie fiend or if the cause is something greater.
“Why does sex hurt so bad?”
You want to get close to your partner, but your dang body won’t allow it. Sex should be pleasurable and you shouldn’t have to tolerate pain during intercourse, O’Neill says.
Causes include vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, STDs, drug side effects or vaginismus, a condition characterized by involuntary tightening of the pelvic floor. No matter the cause, you should see your doctor to rule out those causes.
“So many people experience these seemingly embarrassing topics so no health care worker will be shocked by the questions,” O’Neill says. “It is likely that they have experienced some of these things themselves.”
“Should I get tested for STDs?”
The answer to this one is always a resounding “yes!” If you’ve been sexually active, you should be tested for STDs according to Planned Parenthood, but especially if you’ve experience some odd symptoms like itching, bumps or fever following sex.
Getting tested is a big deal and you might find out some information you don’t need to know, but it’s necessary to get the proper treatment and protect future sexual partners from the same infection.
Never an uncomfortable moment, sponsored by Sanuk.