Physicians know many details about their patients’ lives, from family medical history to health concerns. But the patient-doctor relationship is even more intimate with a gynecologist who is a woman’s partner through birth control, sexual history, fertility and family planning. Still, some topics and questions can feel uncomfortable to bring up.
With a sex education system that is lacking, many women don’t receive all the information or even correct information as young girls, says Dr. Jennie Hauschka, a gynecologist at Tryon Medical Partners.
“Some people feel like there are things they just can’t discuss, but a gynecologist will never judge you,” Dr. Hauschka says. “Our role is to be a sounding board and talk about everything that helps you make the right decisions for your health. Too many women don’t feel empowered by their bodies. Loving yourself and feeling empowered by what your body can do is important.”
Beyond taboos, shame and embarrassment, gynecologists, like those at Tryon, are passionate about education and open conversation, building the relationships that lead to better health. In that spirit of empowerment, Dr. Hauschka shares answers to the questions patients often want to ask but are too reluctant to bring up during appointments.
“There are no stupid questions,” she says. “Nothing is off-limits and I answer everything openly and honestly.”
Are there benefits to getting rid of your pubic hair?
“The only reason to shave your pubic hair is if you like the way it looks,” says Dr. Hauschka. “Pubic hair is there to protect sensitive skin, and really, it should be there. Shaving your bikini line is fine but there’s no need to go full Brazilian. There is no benefit.”
When shaving such a sensitive area, irritation can occur. If you like less hair, consider using a beard trimmer or a brand new disposable razor each time you shave. Razor burn and skin irritations occur after shaving because of small cuts and tears that get infected by bacteria. Using an over-the-counter cleanser like Hibiclens, an antiseptic, can help prevent irritation.
Are exercises for your pelvic floor, like kegels, really helpful?
“Your pelvic floor is like a bowl with a lot of overlapping and interconnected muscles that connect with your glutes and abs as part of your core strength,” Dr. Hauschka says. “So really, kegels are a part of doing Pilates or any core strengthening exercises.”
For women post-childbirth, Dr. Hauschka often recommends pelvic floor physical therapists who can assess weaknesses and suggest exercises. One at-home exercise she recommends is laying on your back, knees bent, and pushing your pelvis up into a bridge. Then pull your pelvic floor in, belly button to spine, hold for five to 10 seconds and release. Doing 10 reps several times a day will help coordinate your pelvic floor.
Are menstrual cups a good alternative to tampons?
Many patients have not tried menstrual cups or discs, but they have a lot of advantages, Dr. Hauschka says. They hold the same amount as two super absorbency tampons and can be left in for up to 12 hours, making them great for teenagers who need to get through a school day or busy women who do not want to change their lifestyle each month.
Intercourse is possible while using menstrual cups and discs, leading to less bleeding during sex. Studies have also shown they decrease cramping, though why is not clear. And they reduce waste.
Why is my period not always consistent? Why are some heavier, lighter or more painful?
The hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate during your normal menstrual cycle, peaking mid-cycle then, without pregnancy, dropping off. There can be different amounts, highs and lows during each cycle. When estrogen levels are higher, the uterine lining can fluff up, causing a heavier period and more cramping.
From 21 to 35 days, there is a wide range of how long a normal cycle can be. A longer cycle can even mean you didn’t ovulate that month, which is completely normal, leading to a lighter period.
“If your period is really unpredictable and you’re not trying to get pregnant, going on birth control can help regulate it so you know when it’s coming or just suppress it completely,” Dr. Hauschka says. “You do not have to have a period every month to be healthy. That’s a total myth.”
Are feminine washes and wipes ok to use?
“The vagina cleans itself and washes, wipes and douches are all marketing gimmicks,” Dr. Hauschka says. “Vaginas need a low PH to be self-cleaning and introducing soap increases the PH, making it impossible for the vagina to kill bacteria like it should.”
Each body has its own smell and discharge, which means everything is working normally. If there is itching and irritation, that is when you should speak to your gynecologist.
When you have a great patient-doctor relationship, no question should feel too uncomfortable for your gynecologist. Find your women’s health expert today to maintain your best health and feel empowered by your own body, no matter your age or life stage.