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Intimacy

Can I ask my OBGYN that?

by Nathalie Marquez Courtney

You trust your Ob/Gyn with some of the most private, sensitive parts of your body, so it’s no wonder that even thinking about asking certain questions can leave you blushing. We’re here to tell you – whatever your query, you can bet your gynecologist has been there, been asked that.

From lumps and bumps to orgasms and beyond, we’ve rounded up a list of things you may be planning on asking, wished you had asked, or may even want to discuss on your next visit (now that you know it’s totally ok to do so).

Is my vagina supposed to look like that?

Mainstream porn has a lot to answer for, not least of all making women feel that there is one pre-defined way that things “should” look. The reality is vulvas are just like people – they come in all shapes and sizes. “Because of the norms that exist wherever women are portrayed sexually, we have ideas about what we think labia should look like,” says Dr. Harper. “The truth is, there’s no real reason to be worried about the length of the labia, the amount of hair (or its color) or even the size of the labia.”

Get checked out if: “If a lump appears at the base of the vulva, near the opening to the vagina or in any other area that’s new and it continues to stay there, then you want to have that checked out,” says Dr. Harper. “ It could be something called a Bartholin’s cyst. If it continues to grow, it can become very painful and require drainage. You also want to have any new ulcers checked out by your doctor.”

How often should I be having sex?

“I get asked this question a lot,” says Dr. Harper. “People want a number.” The reality is that there is no “right” amount – it’s entirely up to what feels right for you and your partner. Hormones, stress, diet, schedules, the ebb and flow of life and your own natural libido will all play a role in how frequently you have sex. The key thing to remember is that as long as you’re both happy and communicating openly, you have nothing to worry about.

How much vaginal discharge is normal?

“If discharge is white and thin, and it has what we would describe as a slightly metallic odor, that’s a normal vaginal discharge,” says Rosy’s founder and CEO Dr. Lyndsey Harper, MD. “It’s your vagina’s way of keeping itself clean and nothing to be worried about.”

Get checked out if: When discharge smells bad or if there’s persistent itching or the discharge becomes yellow or green, consider talking to your gynecologist. “This is especially true if it persists for more than a day or two because it could be a sign of an infection or something else,” explains Dr. Harper.

Can I have sex during my period?

“I think sometimes more people wonder about this than ask about it,” laughs Dr, Harper. “There’s no reason, physiologically, not to have sex during a period. Sometimes people are concerned about what their partner might think. Or maybe have their own hangups about blood – but bottom line is there’s no real health reason that you can’t have sex on your period.”

Dr. Harper has some tips for couples wanting to have sex when menstruating: “You could lay down a towel and then you’ve got an easy cleanup. You can have sex in the shower (although sometimes lubrication is a little bit harder there, so consider getting a silicone-based lubricant.” There are now even period-blocking devices that you can put in the vagina during sex.”

Can I have sex when I’m pregnant (and can the baby tell)?

“If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, sex is totally fine,” says Dr. Harper. “The baby is very protected and can’t really perceive that anything’s going on. And no, the penis doesn’t touch the baby – there’s a long distance between the top of the vagina and where the baby actually is.”

However, Dr. Harper says it’s important to remember that are some reasons you might not want to have sex: if, like so many women, you have a rough first trimester and end up often feeling unwell you may not be up for anything other than ginger tea and an early night. “Also, sometimes pressure on the pelvis from the baby, especially towards the end of pregnancy when the baby gets bigger, can make sex in certain positions uncomfortable,” says Dr. Harper. “Like with any sort of sexual goal or a problem, it’s all about communication.”

Being able to talk to your partner about what’s comfortable, what’s pleasurable and being able to make some tweaks and changes is key to finding something that works for you both.

Avoid sex when pregnant if: “If you have a pregnancy complication, like you have a short cervix or you’re having preterm labor, then definitely abstain from sex.”

I struggle to orgasm. Is there something wrong with me?

According to Dr. Harper, this is a common question many women often can’t even bring themselves to ask. However, a whopping 20 percent of women in the US struggle to orgasm so if this is something you’re living with, know that you’re not alone. “Often women in particular feel like there’s nothing that can be done,” notes Dr. Harper. “They tend to internalize it and think it’s a sign that something is wrong with them.”

Luckily, more and more gynecologists are bringing these types of issues up with their patients, laying the groundwork for women to feel comfortable opening up and asking for help. “I see it as an obligation on the medical side for us to really open the avenue to those questions for our patients,” says Dr. Harper. “Because without that open invitation, a lot of people will think maybe this isn’t the right place to discuss those issues or they worry about how that information might be received or whether they might be judged.”

Hopefully this small sample of common questions will not only save you a blush or two, but will remind you that, when it comes to your reproductive and sexual health, no question should be off the table.

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Nathalie Marquez Courtney is a freelance photographer, editor, and writer from Dublin, Ireland. Her background is in editorial magazine publishing and works shooting talented photos for some of Ireland’s best and most loved publications.