We quizzed three women’s health specialists from around the country to determine the best things to cover during your visit.
Have you ever been excited for a trip to the gynaecologist? Didn’t think so. Climbing into those stirrups without any pants on, the chill you feel in that open-backed gown and being examined down there is hardly an enjoyable experience, so you’re not alone if you feel like you want to get the job done and be out the door ASAP. But, before you disappear into a cloud of smoke, try taking the opportunity to check in with your doctor and ask them as many questions as you can about your sexual and reproductive health. No topic is off-limits and your specialist will want to help. “Nothing is going to shock your doctor!” says gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Gino Pecoraro. “For some women, having someone they can talk to about anything is liberating. It’s a place where they can ask questions without being judged,” he says. Feel a bit more at ease? Here are 6 questions to consider asking during your next visit:
Is my contraception the right method for me?
As you go through your reproductive life, your body will change and so will your specific needs. “Just because one form of contraception has worked for you so far, doesn’t mean it will always be the best thing for you,” says Dr Pecoraro. Think about what suits your lifestyle. If you’re keen on controlling when you have a period, the pill might be appropriate, or if you want something simple yet effective, a ‘set and forget’ IUD may be worth exploring.
If you have questions about contraception, know that your specialist will ask details about your medical history to help assess the best route for you. “We want to know if you’ve used birth control before, what your obstetric history is and if you’ve had any sexually transmitted diseases. If you’ve had one, some forms of contraception may not be suitable,” explains gynaecologist and fertility specialist, Dr Raewyn Teirney.
Am I up to date with all the tests?
Bleeding for longer than seven days, through clothing and in-between cycles should always be investigated further. It’s also important to note that while painful periods are common, they’re not normal. “You may have concerns that are indicative of endometriosis, [a disease] which is exceptionally poorly-diagnosed by general practitioners and gynaecologists alike,” explains Dr Sgroi. It can be quite debilitating for a lot of women, so if you have symptoms, raise them with your doctor.
Can you show me how to self-examine my breasts?
Gynaecologists are specially-trained to look after all aspects of women’s reproductive health. This includes the breasts. “We can certainly talk to you about the changes that happen with your breasts throughout your lifetime, as well as teaching you how to do breast self-examination,” says Dr Pecoraro. A visit is also a good reminder to always be vigilant and to check yourself regularly for abnormalities. “Even at a young age, it’s vital to examine your breasts,” says Dr Tierney.
Should I get genetic testing?
Women who carry a genetic fault in genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at a lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. As science has progressed, we’re now able to test for the risk of gynaecological or breast malignancy. “Gynaecologists are absolutely able to help, should you want to have those genetic tests done,” offers Dr Pecoraro. “We can talk about what it means for you and what to do with those results when you get them,” he says.
What changes should I look out for ‘down there’?
If you have noticed anything out of the ordinary, book in to see your specialist and ask about specific symptoms, such as:
• Itchiness, discolouration or a change in the formation of the vulva
• Painful sex
• Irregular discharge
• Abnormal odour
• Bleeding with intercourse
Preparing for your visit
If you’re going to see the gynaecologist after a lengthy period of time, you might feel nervous. Finding someone you feel relaxed enough to chat with is important, because asking questions can be uncomfortable. “Write down some things you’d like to ask the doctor beforehand, because sometimes you may forget a specific thing,” advises Dr Teirney. And, if you’re still feeling awkward about broaching something with your doctor, psych yourself up with a pre-visit pep talk – we guarantee nothing you’ll want to ask will be a surprise to your specialist.