You probably visit your gynecologist once a year, max, for about 15 to 20 minutes each appointment. If you think about it, you spend more time chatting up your local grocery store clerk than a medical professional who can reveal a wealth of knowledge about your body.
Naturally, it’s always a bit peculiar to be expected to discuss your most intimate body parts and all of the juicy (or boring) details of your sex life with this near-complete stranger, but women do it for the sake of their health and well-being. And, by all accounts, it’s a wise and advisable thing to do.
With hope, you’ve found a gynecologist who is just lovely and trustworthy — professional and knowledgeable with an excellent bedside manner. But if you’re reading this and shaking your head, wondering if that’s the case, mainly because you find some of his or her questions unsettling, it’s time to separate the good and necessary from the just plain bad, bad, run-as-fast-as-you-can bad questions that no gynecologist should ever ask you.
“The current recommendation is for girls 13-15 years to see their gynecologist to start and build a relationship to discuss sexual transmitted infection screening, prevention and other health care advice,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “If you missed this window, now is the time to make yourself an appointment. You want to develop an open and honest relationship where you feel comfortable to ask questions that may make you squirm in your seat or turn red in the face.”
Ross is well aware of how awkward it feels to sit on the gynecologic exam table, especially with both feet in stirrups, and be asked a series of questions about your vagina and what it has and has not experienced in life. “With that said, it’s best to write down a list of your questions before you arrive for your gyn visit,” Ross says. “The gynecologist knows what to ask even if you may not. If you don’t blush a couple of times during your visit, your gynecologist is not asking the right questions.”
Ross says there are few questions that are completely off the table during a visit:
1. Do you like the way this feels? Can you imagine anything creepier than your doc gauging your sexual arousal as he or she performs a breast exam? If this ever happens to you, run like the wind and report your gyno immediately.
2. Would you go on a date with me? I guess it’s possible for a gynecologist to fall head over heels in love with his or her patient, but I’d hope he or she values their job more than a romantic dinner date with someone they’ve already seen naked.
3. Can I see you outside the office? Again, it’s completely inappropriate for your gynecologist to request that you meet him/her at Starbucks after his/her shift ends.
Since your doctor is in the business of finding out everything possible about your reproductive organs, there are going to be times when you might question whether some of his/her inquiries crossed a line — and Ross says these nine questions may sound odd, but help your gynecologist get a clearer picture of your health history:
1. Do you know what safe sex is?
2. Does your partner wear a condom?
3. Do you and your partner use a dental dam during oral sex?
4. Has your partner been tested for sexually transmitted diseases?
5. Do you have any trouble having an orgasm?
6. Do you have anal sex?
7. Does your partner ever hit you? Or act aggressively, verbally or physically?
8. Do you smoke cigarettes, weed or use illicit drugs?
9. Have you ever had a threesome? Or have you ever been with a bisexual man?
When in doubt, remember that it’s OK for you to turn the tables and ask your gynecologist questions about the questions you’re being asked. As much as the goal is to maintain good health, it’s also crucial that you feel you’re developing a relationship with a health professional you trust.