Visiting a gynecologist is a necessary part of any woman’s life if she wants to keep her reproductive health in check. And while it’s important to ask them questions about things that might concern you, they should have a list of their own as well.
It may not be easy to tell if your gyno is being as thorough as they should be, and I don’t just mean in the physical examination sense. Many women aren’t terribly comfortable going through the standard gynecological checkup in the first place, so they neglect to realize if everything’s been appropriately covered. Women’s health is complicated, and it’s not your responsibility to be aware of absolutely everything that might denote a specific issue. After all, you’re going to a doctor because there are things you can’t always figure out on your own, right?
With that in mind, here are seven questions your gynecologist should be asking you at a regular checkup.
1. Are you currently sexually active?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the answer to this question will decide what kind of testing your gyno needs to do on your Pap smear. OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck, M.D., told Women’s Health, “The more information that’s disclosed that seems to be relevant, the more individualized care that can be given.”
2. How many sexual partners have you had?
This goes hand-in-hand with the question above. If you’ve only been with one person for 15 years, your doctor may not suggest as many (or any) STD screenings as opposed to someone who’s single and averaging three different partners a month.
3. Are you having regular period cycles?
A regular period cycle is 28 days, and you should be getting your period roughly every 21 days. If you’re bleeding in between periods, having late periods or particularly long periods, that’s known as an irregular period cycle. Dr. Amy Autry told Everyday Health, “At least 30 percent of women have irregular periods during their childbearing years,” and it’s usually not indicative of anything more serious. However, it sometimes can be — so your doctor should always check, especially if your period pattern suddenly changes.
4. Any pain or bleeding during or after sex?
If you experience pain once or twice during or after intercourse in your vagina or pelvis, it’s likely nothing about which to be concerned. However, if the pain continues, you definitely want to be tested for a variety of possible issues from a basic vaginal infection to endometriosis. Most of these issues can be easily treated, but it’s better to figure out what’s going on before it gets worse.
5. Has your vaginal discharge or odor changed?
This may be a bit uncomfortable for you to answer (which is why a lot of doctors don’t even ask), but sudden changes in discharge color, consistency, and/or odor could denote a bacterial infection. Again, easy to take care of and better to have a little awkward moment versus a lot of physical discomfort later.
6. Are you happy with your birth control method?
This is a huge part of your gyno’s business, so if they’re not asking you this question, they may want to re-evaluate their practice plans. It’s their job to help you pick and regulate your birth control (if you choose to be on it), no matter the method. After learning your history, they should be able to help you pick the right type and brand for your lifestyle.
7. Are you self-checking your breasts regularly?
Yes, this one’s more on you, and just like flossing, you should be doing it often and routinely. However, it’s your doctor’s job to remind you of the importance of self-checking and get on you if you’ve been lax about it. They should also demonstrate the most effective way to do it, you know, in case you’ve forgotten.