The gynaecologist appointment is far from fun, but it is an absolute necessity. Sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of a woman’s overall health and it's not to be taken lightly. As important as it is to report everything to the gynaecologist, some women are too embarrassed to reveal some information. Moreover, they are reluctant to honestly answer questions that include things that the doctor needs to know.
Like the way people lie to the dietitian about the pizza slice they snuck in last week, some women also keep bad habits and problems secret to spare themselves the awkwardness. However, this can be quite dangerous because it can cause a doctor to miss a red flag, and some serious troubles may start getting out of control. The information may range from simple things like diet and sleeping habits, to more private things like sexual activity and nature of sexual encounters. Yes, it gets uneasy and makes grown women blush like little girls, but it's unavoidable.
Gynaecologists are aware of this fact, so they start prying in their patients’ lives by asking questions that don't necessarily make sense to the patients, and may even stun them, but doctors know what they're doing. They know what to ask and they have a reason for it, so it's advisable for women to be straightforward and trust that their doctors are only looking out for their best interest and not trying to be a nosy nuisance. Below are 15 things the gynaecologist may ask that will surprise most women.
15 “When Was Last Period?”
A woman’s period plays a crucial role in determining where she is on her menstrual cycle. Hormones change all the time throughout the month, but it would be extremely difficult and inconvenient to perform blood tests every month. Women who are trying to get pregnant need to be precise about their menstrual cycle, especially those who are opting for fertility treatments. A regular period is a sign of normal ovulation that makes conception easier.
In women with irregular periods, patterns of irregularity can be descriptive. For example, a period every two months could indicate that one ovary is functioning normally, but not the other, because ovaries alternate ovulation every month. Months without periods can indicate polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which the ovaries are abnormally large and contain fluid, which makes conception much harder. Heavy bleeding during periods may signify that there is a problem that needs treatment immediately.
14 “How About Last Exam?”
In the past, women were required to get Pap smears every year. Now, that guideline has changed to three years, but the annual exam is still recommended by many gynos for women aged 21 to 30, and then about every three years afterward until age 65. In a general exam, sometimes ultrasounds are performed to check the ovaries and the uterus. Sometimes, transvaginal ultrasounds are done to examine the cervix, especially in women who are prone to certain diseases or who have a history of problems.
A discussion of other aspects, like birth control and lifestyle, is also on the to-do list of an annual checkup. The reason for this is preventing women from going on with habits that might be harming them, or to discover any problem early enough to treat it well without complications. The doctor will also want to know what the results were of the last exam, so be sure to grab those papers for the next visit. If a woman is sticking to one doctor, they are expected to have a medical record for her. If not, she might need to create her own record by saving all test results and examination reports in a folder.
13 “Any Cramping?”
Cramping is a natural side effect of menstruation. Some women also encounter it a few days before bleeding actually begins. In rare cases, some women feel cramps on and around their ovulation days. Being such a common thing, some women are surprised when doctors ask about it as if it was a cause for concern. In reality, not all cramps are alike. Severity and timing of cramps can mean the difference between discomfort and a life-or-death situation.
Extreme cramping is a sign of problems in the pelvic area. During pregnancy, cramps are a dangerous occurrence indicating that conditions could threaten the pregnancy. Any woman will be tempted to answer “No” to this question because she thinks that everything is under control, but actually, doctors use a number of factors to diagnose certain diseases and problems. Accordingly, no details should be left out, no matter how common it is among women or how mild it is.
12 “Is There Any Discharge?”
Vaginal discharges are normal in all women. They protect the vagina from drying out and from other infections. They increase during pregnancy as a result of hormones, but are still safe. Many women think that vaginal discharge is constant, but it actually changes during the month several times according to the menstrual cycle's hormones. The amount of discharge, along with other symptoms, can actually be used to diagnose certain diseases and conditions.
This is why women are surprised when doctors ask for graphic explanations of the discharge. A doctor may be interested in knowing where a woman is on the menstrual cycle or if anything is going wrong. Withholding information, no matter how disgusting or uncomfortable to talk about it is, can be risky. Gynaecologists usually have heard it all, so they will not be appalled by anything they hear. On the contrary, they actually care for the details that many women think should be locked and buried deep.
11 “Does The Discharge Smell?”
What? A doctor can actually ask that? Um...yeah, they can. Because it is monumentally important. The amount and nature of discharge can vary greatly from woman to woman, but a smelly discharge, that has a more offensive smell can be a surefire sign that something is wrong. Discharge can also be yellow or green in color, as opposed to what the woman is normally used to. This can indicate anything from bacterial or yeast infections to cancer. Further examination is absolutely necessary without delay.
Some smelly discharges are accompanied by bleeding or spotting. Those usually indicate medical emergencies such as ectopic pregnancies or cervical or endometrial cancers. Of course, if the spotting is mild and subsides, it's likely to have resulted from a less drastic condition. However, this does not mean that a woman can ignore the symptom and not get checked for more serious complications as early as she can.
10 “Any Previous Miscarriages?”
Miscarriage is one of the most hurtful experiences in a woman’s life. She will want to shove the memory down to the deepest pits of her mind and never look back. Unfortunately, this is not always the healthiest case. When visiting a gynaecologist, many women are not aware that past experiences affect their bodies. They think that as long as they got treated, they don't have to consider their medical history as something worthy of mentioning.
Yet, this is not how the human body works. Every single thing our bodies go through has an impact on what will happen to us later. This is why asking about the details of a miscarriage (how it happened, how a woman got treated, etc.) will be the top question a gynaecologist will ask, specifically for women trying to conceive or those with high-risk pregnancies. They may also ask women to provide blood tests and reports of everything that happened throughout the miscarriage.
9 “Any History Of Miscarriage In The Family?”
This question is really unexpected for many women. The link between a woman’s own miscarriage and her future reproductive health make sense, but now she has to consider her family, too? Yes, of course. The reason for that is not because miscarriages themselves are genetic, but because the underlying causes sometimes are. Recurrent miscarriages are specifically a red flag because they point out that there is a cause that is not being addressed.
It's not necessary that a family member who miscarried several times will indicate that a relative will do the same. The human body is complicated and it takes several factors to assess diseases and to consider the risks and benefits of certain treatments. Yet, many women are alarmed by questions about their family. They automatically assume that what happened to one family member will definitely happen to them. They should voice their concerns to their doctors so as to not worry for nothing.
8 “What About Cancer?”
Cancer is a serious illness that threatens the lives of many people. It's a feared ghost that people cringe upon hearing about. When a gynaecologist asks about the history of cancer in the family, many women think that something in their tests or health points to an expected cancer, but that's not true. Prevention is a better approach than treatment and all doctors know that. This is why doctors are keen on knowing the history and examining women frequently, not because they are trying to scare them or because they have bad expectations.
Cervical cancer and breast cancer are familial, which means that women who have females in their family who had this disease are at a higher risk of developing them, too. Thus, family history is coupled with the results of annual examinations to assess if the woman is at risk, and provide precautions about what she can do to minimize that risk. It's scary for women to hear this question, but it only means the gynaecologist knows what he or she is doing. Taking every factor into consideration is a sign of a good gynaecologist.
7 “Is There Diabetes In The Family?”
Diabetes is another scary condition that no one wants to hear about. Pregnant women are terrified of gestational diabetes that can put them and their babies at risk for many complications. In general, diabetes affects reproductive health. Women are not surprised to receive questions about medical history related to diabetes, but they may wonder why the doctor is more interested in the mother’s case than the father's.
Genetically, people whose mothers have diabetes are at a higher risk of developing it themselves than those whose fathers are the one with the condition. Although both risks don't necessarily mean trouble for the patient, a gynaecologist would be wise to ask. This prepares them and the patient for what they can expect during several stages, such as conception, pregnancy and delivery. Doctors also help the woman with prescribing medications for other conditions even if she is not pregnant yet.
6 “Previous Use Of IUDs?”
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are the most convenient form of birth control for many women. They are inserted once, do not require any patient compliance like pills, and usually have no side effects. In real life, things are different and are not usually that simple and smooth. Some women’s bodies react to IUDs, reject them and suffer complications as a result. Therefore, a gynaecologist will want to know if something like that has happened to his patient.
When choosing birth control, a doctor will consider biological factors that make the birth control successful. They will rule out things that are incompatible with their patients or that have caused trouble before. If an extreme complication occurs from an IUD, it may not only mean that future IUDs are not possible, but also, they could indicate the effect of much worse consequences (like scarring from forced IUD removal) on future reproductive chances. This question will come up if the gynaecologist notices abnormalities in the uterus that could have resulted from such a problem.
5 “Preferred Method Of Birth Control?”
This may sound overboard, but it is actually necessary. Many women think of medicine as the rule book and of doctors as the white coat personnel with unquestionable authority, but this is actually a big myth. The same way women debate birth control, feeding, changing and parenting options, doctors also debate medical information. This means that information given by doctors are guidelines that have to match the patient's life and make them comfortable. It's not the patient that has to adjust herself to treatments unless absolutely necessary.
Birth control is not a medical emergency. This is why it has to be selected as befits a woman’s expectations and lifestyle. Some women prefer IUDs because they don't expect themselves to be regular in taking pills, while others don't like the notion of inserting a foreign object and will prefer getting pills or shots. The discussion on birth control options is a necessary one that a patient must be aware of; she must choose something that the doctors agree upon, while at the same time, she is comfortable with.
4 “Ever Used Douches?”
Vaginal douches are products used to wash the vagina that can be cosmetic or medicinal. There are many products on the market, but the doctors all agree upon one thing; do not use them! Vaginal douches are linked to higher rates of pelvic inflammatory disease. They cause allergic reactions and irritation and they may cause an imbalance in the vaginal chemistry and lead to bacterial or yeast overgrowth, increasing the risk of infections.
If a woman is already infected and is advised by her doctor to use a certain product, then she definitely should. Otherwise, she should steer clear of products that unnecessarily enter the vagina, no matter how much they promise to make it smell like roses. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, which means that it needs no extra procedures or care unless something medical is involved. If a doctor suspects that douching is causing the problem they see, they will definitely check if their patient follows this habit so they can identify it or rule it out as a cause of trouble.
3 “What About Diet?”
No, the doctor is not judging the patient’s eating habits nor is he or she trying to comment on the patient's weight. To doctors, a diet is not simply a fat or thin situation. Ideal weight does not automatically spell health, because doctors are aware that there is much more to nutrition than the number on the scale. This is why even women who are confident about their weight will still face questions about what they eat and drink.
The doctor may suspect deficiency in iron if the patient is exhausted or a certain vitamin if it shows on their hair, skin or blood tests. So, they will automatically advise patients to try and eat better, hoping for better health and test results. They may prescribe supplements if they think food alone is not enough to fill the need. It's also possible that they ask a patient to eliminate foods or drinks (such as caffeine) that may be causing them trouble.
2 “Any Burning During Urination?”
This might sound like an annoying detail that no woman in the world wants to share, but trust me, she does! Painful urination is a sign of the dreaded urinary tract infection (UTI). The infections happen when bacteria stick to the urethral wall and cause pain. Correct bathroom habits, like wiping from front to back after urination can diminish the risk, but women still have a higher chance of developing it than men. Sexual activity may also cause UTIs in women who are prone to them.
UTIs are treatable with antibiotics, and the earlier the better. Drinking a lot of fluids also helps to flush out the bacteria faster. The doctor will prescribe the correct antibiotic and give information on how often to take the medication and for how long. This is why it's important to be completely honest about the severity and frequency of the symptoms and not to ignore any pain or discomfort.
1 “Where Did You Hear THAT?”
Of course, doctors have their fair share of myths being tossed around in their offices. Sometimes, women believe what they hear from friends, family and the internet. Sometimes they stick to a habit for so long they are surprised when the doctor questions it. Some women may have been told that some things are good practices, when in fact they really aren’t (like douching). No wonder doctors always ask for sources on that kind of information and proceed to deny the credibility of the sources.
Doctors are not asking women to stop reading and asking. They are just asking that they do not change their lifestyles or medications based on what they read on the internet. The doctor is the go-to person for good medical advice. They expect to be treated as the only source of information, or at least as the filter through which information is put before taking drastic measures in a woman’s health. This is why establishing a good and comfortable relationship with the gynaecologist is extremely important.