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Empower Yourself: Questions Women Should Never Be Afraid to Ask Their OB/GYN

Woman with DoctorGoing to the OB/GYN for an annual checkup or to address a health concern can feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable. After all, these are very private and personal matters, and the female body is quite complex. Whether your appointment is for a Pap smear, birth control prescription, mammogram, or something else, it’s common to feel embarrassed during obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) visits and to try to rush through the appointment.

However, your reproductive health is far too important to feel afraid or ashamed to ask questions. UAB Medicine OB/GYNs Fran Burgan, MD, and Audra Williams, MD, say that routine checkups are essential in preventing serious issues and helping you take the best possible care of your body, so regular visits should be viewed as an opportunity to empower women to take control of their health.

What question does Dr. Burgan wish her patients would ask more often? “How can I optimize my success in getting pregnant this year?” is near the top of the list, she says. Alternatively, simply mentioning that you’re planning to get pregnant sometime in the future can open the door for many important conversations with your OB/GYN, Dr. Burgan adds.

Dr. Williams says she wishes women would ask more questions about their sexual health. “This can sometimes be an embarrassing or awkward topic, but I often find that women have been struggling with these issues and just didn’t know whom to turn to,” she says. “It’s important to remember that OB/GYNs have seen and heard it all, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Routine checkups are an ideal time to ask about small things that have been bothering you or even more serious women’s health concerns that you want to explore in more detail. Below are some questions that may resonate with you and are totally appropriate to ask your OB/GYN:

  • Is my vaginal odor normal?
  • Should I be concerned about my libido?
  • Why is my menstrual cycle irregular?
  • Are there exercises I can do to strengthen my pelvic floor?
  • How do I perform a breast self-examination?

Dr. Burgan says she encourages her patients to turn to her specifically about pregnancy and childbirth. “What exercises or activities will keep me most comfortable and reduce my aches and pains later in pregnancy and postpartum?” is a question she suggests for women who are expecting or trying to conceive. The answer often is yoga, which offers numerous benefits for natural pain relief and relaxation, Dr. Burgan says.

Understandably, pregnant women have many questions about how their bodies are changing and how to best care for their developing babies. Here are some excellent questions to help women prepare themselves for maternity and childbirth:

  • What are the safest ways to have sex while pregnant?
  • Will my vagina go back to normal after giving birth?
  • Have I gained too much weight during my pregnancy?
  • Will I pass a bowel movement during labor?
  • Why am I having more vaginal discharge now that I’m pregnant?

Of course, asking questions like this can be easier said than done once you actually get into your OB/GYN’s office and feelings of nervousness take over. What’s a simple way to ease the pressure, feel more empowered to ask tough questions, and get the most out of your OB/GYN visits? “Write down your questions before your visit and commit to asking about everything on your list,” Dr. Burgan says. “But keep expectations reasonable; sometimes a separate appointment is needed to allow a full discussion of bigger topics.”

“I think women tend to see the annual exam as just the time to get their Pap smear, but the goal really is to take care of all of a woman’s reproductive health needs,” Dr. Williams adds.

Click here to learn more about UAB Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology or to make an appointment.