Some days I just have to laugh because I feel like I’m saying the same things to different patients all day long. Here is my list of the top ten things that I’d love my patients to know.
- You don’t need to apologize for not shaving your legs, armpits, or bikini line. I’m here to provide OB/GYN care, not to judge you on your grooming habits. In fact, if you have shaved or waxed your pubic hair completely off, I may be counseling you to ease up on the grooming a bit, for health reasons.
- Vaginal discharge that isn’t malodorous or causing itching or burning is most likely normal and a sign of a healthy reproductive system. It isn’t something that needs to be treated. Learn to know how your discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle and why. It is fascinating, and it can help you get pregnant or prevent pregnancy, if you know what to look for.
- Tracking your menstrual cycle is very helpful and easy to do with various apps on smart phones. I will ask you in detail about your periods, and so it’s helpful to have that information on hand. Plus, isn’t it convenient to know when you will get your period?
- If you tell me that you’ve gained weight over the past year, the primary discussion we are going to have is about exercise and proper nutrition — not about your suspected “hormonal imbalance.”
- There is no single blood test to determine if you can get pregnant, rather a detailed and lengthy workup that is usually only done after a period of concerted effort by a couple to conceive. If you are worried about getting pregnant, use contraception. If you want to get pregnant, have unprotected sex. If you want to know when you are most fertile, see #3.
- If you are having sex and don’t use some sort of contraception, there is at least an 85% chance you will be pregnant within a year.
- Pap smears screen for abnormal cells on your cervix — which could lead to cervical cancer — and can be used to test for the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Pap smears do not screen for ovarian cancer. And you most likely don’t need a Pap smear every year any more thanks to a change in guidelines. The guidelines are based on solid research on the progression of HPV and cervical cancer, not because of insurance companies.
- Please be honest when I ask about your sexual activity and number of partners. I’m not judging you, but I need accurate information in order to make the best recommendations for your care.
- I don’t think that vaginas or vulvas are gross at all, and I’m sorry if you feel that way — the female body and reproductive system are pretty amazing. If you have your period and I need to do an exam or procedure, you don’t need to apologize. I chose this job and knew exactly what I would be seeing on a daily basis.
- No one looks forward to their annual gynecological exam, enjoys the speculum, or wishes to have a pelvic exam. I understand. I will try to make it as comfortable and quick as possible, while still being thorough. The best thing you can do is relax and take some deep breaths.
Oh, and if you notice that your feet are smelly, please keep your shoes or socks on! I really appreciate that!
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.