When it comes to our sexual health, it's time we speak up — especially regarding any sexual health issues we seemingly never talk about.
Our sexual health matters, and problems won't go away just because we keep our mouths shut. We talked with New York OB/GYN and co-author of V is for Vagina Dr. Alyssa Dweck about the most embarrassing problems women experience. Here's what she said about the health issues no one talks about.
I think I forgot a tampon inside…
As masters of multi-tasking, women are busy — and because we tend to overload our daily agendas, some things do fall through the cracks (or get stuck, in this case).
"A retained tampon will be noticed soon enough since it typically causes a horrible odor and perhaps some mild discomfort — this in and of itself is really embarrassing to most," Dr. Dweck says.
Solution: Try to safely get it out. "If you can't retrieve it yourself, you will need to see your gynecologist," says the women's health expert. "If left in for too long, you could develop a vaginal infection or, though rare, toxic shock syndrome."
My diaphragm is stuck…
So you just had sex, and then it happens: You can't retrieve your diaphragm. Dr. Dweck says, "Women are mortified to come clean with this problem because they often panic and show up in the ER for this issue after sex."
The doctor has also seen women get in a panic and hurt themselves. "I have seen a couple of vaginal tears from those women with long nails who aggressively attempt diaphragm removal on their own," she says.
Solution: You may need to put your panic aside and try to remove it when you aren't riddled with anxiety, and you may have to see your gynecologist. "Typically there is no danger at all, and the gynecologist will just remove the diaphragm without issue," Dr. Dweck says.
I leak a little urine when I sneeze…
Do you suffer from a weak bladder? "This is an underreported issue and women are really hesitant to bring it up due to shame and embarrassment," Dr. Dweck says. "Typically, urinary stress incontinence is more common in women who have had multiple vaginal deliveries (especially when women have had big babies or instrumented deliveries), women who are overweight and women with a family history of stress incontinence."
Solution: Dr. Dweck recommends talking to your doctor because there are things you can do at home and medical treatments that can help you put an end to leaking. She explains, "Simple fixes involve regular Kegel exercises, avoidance of caffeine, timed voiding (so you don't wait to pee until your bladder is really full), always emptying the bladder prior to exercise and sex. Surgery is also available in some cases."
Some fluid squirted out of me during sex…
This is one of the more embarrassing issues for some women because it seems abnormal. According to Dr. Dweck, some women on some occasions will actually ejaculate a notable amount of fluid during sex and orgasm, and occasionally women will leak a small amount of urine during vigorous sex.
Solution: If either of these issues happens to you, do not be alarmed. "Female ejaculation is not dangerous, and I reassure women that treatment is not needed," Dr. Dweck says. Urinary leakage during sex is also avoidable by emptying your bladder prior to sex.
I have a horrible odor after sex, and my partner notices…
Our bodies naturally have odors, but when the smell is strong enough to get noticed, pay attention. "It's possible that you have an imbalance of the normal bacterial balance in the vagina called BV, or bacterial vaginosis," Dr. Dweck says. "Women with BV may also have a grayish malodorous vaginal discharge."
Solution: Dr. Dweck stresses that this should be checked by your gynecologist. "It is easily treated with oral or vaginal antibiotics," she assures. "Other ways to prevent BV include taking a probiotic or eating yogurt with live cultures daily, using condoms and avoiding douching."
A version of this article was originally published in February 2012.