Seeing your OB/GYN can be an awkward, somewhat nerve-wracking experience. The last thing you want to do is make the visit any more agonizing. And while, you may be overwhelmed with burning questions about your lady parts, most of us would rather grin and bear it, to make the process as seamless as possible.
With the help of board-certified OB/GYNs Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman and Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, here are answers to three embarrassing questions you’re too afraid to ask your gynecologist – because awkwardness is no excuse to stay in the dark about common womanly concerns.
Q: I smell “funny” down there. Should I be worried?
Dr. Idries: Worried may be a strong term but a funny odor is something that should be investigated. Let’s start by establishing the fact that all vaginas make discharge. Vaginal discharge is not only normal but it is actually healthy. Vaginal discharge is indicative of normal vaginal flora (the bacteria and organisms that should live in the vagina) and vaginal discharge functions to clean unhealthy organisms from the vagina. Most vaginal discharge will have a mild odor, again this is normal. The key is getting to know your body and your norm.
“The issue is when the vaginal discharge has a strong or abnormal odor or if it smells differently than normal. If the odor is fishy, that usually indicates bacterial vaginosis, an infection and imbalance amongst the normal vaginal flora. Malodorous vaginal discharge can also be indicative of an STI (sexually transmitted infection) like gonorrhea, chlamydia or trichomoniasis. Strong vaginal discharge can also be indicative of rarer things including foreign bodies (retained tampon or condom) and even more rarely malignancies like cervical, uterine or vaginal cancer.
So again, worried is a strong term but if malodorous discharge is present, especially if it is new, it should definitely be investigated by a medical professional.”
Dr. Jamil: Less concerning causes of abnormal odor can include vaginitis. This is typically a non-STD infection like candidiasis (i.e., a yeast infection) or bacterial vaginosis. Additionally, consumption of large amounts of dairy, alcohol, etc. can affect the vaginal pH and result in an odd odor.Q: How much daily discharge is normal?
Dr. Jamil: There really isn’t a “normal” amount. The amounts of daily discharge can vary widely depending upon whether or not a woman is pregnant, postmenopausal, premenopausal, in the early portion of her menstrual cycle, has just ovulated, is on some form of contraception, etc. I normally tell women to be less concerned about the amount of vaginal discharge and more concerned about the consistency and character of the discharge. If the discharge seems “different” than it normally is, that maybe an indication of an issue. If it is thicker than normal, thinner than normal, has a different odor or is associated with “symptoms” (i.e. abdominal pain, itching, odor, painful urination, etc), then that maybe an indication of a problem.
Q: Why am I no longer interested in having sex?
Dr. Idries: The answer to this question is not always easy. The most common cause for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder is psychological. This doesn’t mean that women who have less interest in sex are crazy. This means that for women, sex is both physical and emotional. If there is a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship, the desire for physical intimacy also takes a hit.
Another major cause for lack of desire in women is simple aging. For both men and women, hormones play a big part in both sexual desire and functioning. As women age, levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (yes, women have testosterone) decrease. As these hormone levels decrease, women frequently notice a decrease in desire.
The causes of decreased desire can also include medical conditions. Think about the two Ds because depression and diabetes are two big ones. Medication side effects can also cause a decrease in desire as a side effect.
Decreased sexual desire is often a complex multi-factorial issue and women should not be embarrassed or hesitant to discuss it with their medical providers.