The Annual Exam: 8 Things to Share with Your OB/GYN

Doctor or psychiatrist consulting and diagnostic examining stressful woman patient on obstetric - gynecological female illness, or mental health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service center; Blog: The Annual Exam: 8 Things to Share with Your OB/GYN

During your annual wellness exam, you should update your OB/GYN on your overall health as well as your sexual and reproductive health. Before and during the exam, the nurse and the doctor will probably ask you questions about any changes you have experienced between the last time they saw you and your current visit. 

However, it’s important to make a list (either mentally or maybe even using the notes app on your phone) of concerns you have and mention them if they do not bring the topic up. You don’t want to forget something when they ask if you have any other questions or concerns. 

Importance of Doctor-Patient Relationship

Before we get into these topics, it is important to note that the doctor’s office should be a safe space where you can talk about your health issues without fear of judgment or shaming. A good OB/GYN (or any doctor) is not going to make judgments about your life when discussing personal issues relating to your reproductive system or sexual activity. And to put it bluntly, whatever you are going to say is probably something they have heard before. 

 Plus, confidentiality is at the core of a good doctor/patient relationship. Feeling comfortable enough with your doctor to be open about these issues is critical for your health and wellbeing, so keep that in mind when choosing a doctor. If you do not feel like you can tell them about your problems, they won’t be able to offer solutions, which is why you see them in the first place. If you don’t feel like you have a safe space to voice your concerns with your current doctor because they are dismissive or judgmental, it’s time to find a new one who can actually help you.

What to Share with Your OB/GYN

If you aren’t sure what things to share with your OB/GYN, versus maybe your primary care doctor or another provider that you may see, here are eight topics to consider:

1. Painful Periods

Most women experience some pain or discomfort during their periods. Cramping, bloating, soreness and headaches are all symptoms commonly associated with menstruation. However, if your pain is disrupting your life and incapacitating you in any way, that is not something you should have to live with. Whether you have always had painful periods or if they’ve just recently become more painful than usual, then your OB/GYN needs to know about it.

Painful periods could be a sign of a deeper issue like endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Your doctor can work with you to find a way to treat the pain as well as the underlying condition so you do not have to resign yourself to suffering each month. 

2. Sexual Discomfort

If you experience pain or discomfort during intercourse or other sexual activity, then this is also something you need to share with your OB/GYN. This is one area many women feel uncomfortable talking about. As discussed above, your doctor is there to help you, not judge you.

Sexual discomfort can be caused by a number of things. And while it may seem like enjoying sex is not very high on the totem pole of health issues, it can impact your overall quality of life and get in the way of conceiving a baby when you want to. Also, this discomfort is a symptom of something that may be wrong, so it is important to get a professional medical opinion.

For many women, vaginal dryness is often at the root of sexual discomfort. Without the proper lubrication, penetrative intercourse can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. Dryness can be caused by many things including hormonal imbalances due to menopause or birth control use. Some medications, like antidepressants, can also cause vaginal dryness. Another culprit is lack of arousal because there has not been enough foreplay or external stimulation prior to penetration.

Pain during sex that is not caused by dryness can have a number of causes. They can be as simple as being in the wrong position for your body or as complex as a condition like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Also, low libido can indicate a larger hormonal issue. So, it is important to talk about sexual issues with your doctor as it could have implications beyond the bedroom.

3. Unusual Discharge or Odor

Another thing that might be embarrassing to talk about is any foul odor or smelly discharge you might have. But it needs to be dealt with as some odors can indicate an infection or overgrowth of bacteria. Vaginal odor can be normal, but a change from your normal smell or particularly foul or fishy odors should be mentioned to your OB/GYN. 

4. Growths and Bumps

If you notice a growth or bump in your vagina or on your vulva (the exterior of the female sexual organs including the labia and clitoris), it can be disconcerting. There are many causes that are benign, such as pimples, irritation or cuts from shaving, or ingrown hairs. However, you should have your doctor look at the bumps to make sure they are not being caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like genital warts or herpes.

5. Changes in your Sexual History

If you have had new partners during the interval between visits, you should inform your OB/GYN. Also, if you think you are at risk for an STI or suspect you have one, they need to know that too.

Again, the exam room is a judgment-free zone. Being honest about when you started having sex, how many partners you’ve had, and what kind of protection you have used is important for your OB/GYN to get a full picture of your sexual health.

Reasons why your doctor needs to know these things include determining your risk of contracting HPV or counseling about possible effects from past STIs.

 Also, there are health concerns specific to LGBTQ+ individuals (especially bisexual women, lesbian women, trans men, and nonbinary people) the doctor will need to discuss to provide the highest level of care.

6. Urinary Discomfort

If you are experiencing pain during urination, that can be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Along with pain or burning during urination, symptoms of a UTI may include a noticeable increase in frequency and urgency.

UTIs need to be treated, usually with antibiotics, quickly to prevent the infection from spreading into the kidneys. The urinary tract is included in sexual health and a UTI can also cause discomfort during intercourse. Also, a frequent cause of UTIs is bacteria entering the urethra after vaginal intercourse.

7. Pelvic Pain 

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your lower abdomen, or pelvic cavity, at unusual times (for instance, when you are not on your period), it could be a sign of an issue with one of the organs found in the area. These organs include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tube, cervix and vagina. It could also be a sign of a pelvic inflammation, which is a symptom of conditions such as endometriosis, IBS, fibroids, or pelvic floor disorders.

8. Incontinence

 Both urinary and fecal incontinence are things you should bring up with your doctor if they become issues for you. These symptoms often occur after childbirth or during menopause. Depending on your specific case, there may be several treatment options, so discussing the problem with your doctor is important to alleviate the problem. 

At Kernodle OB/GYN we strive to help you reach and maintain good gynecological health throughout all the stages of your life. From your first gynecological exam to menopausal care and all that’s in between, we will be there every step of the way. Call us at (336) 538-2367 or request an appointment online to get started on your wellness journey.

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