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Women often have a lot going on BTS that we don’t think about unless something feels off. Many of us come up with excuses to put off going to see the doctor, whether it’s because we’re uncomfortable laying everything out there (literally) or afraid of the answers we might get. Long story short, going to the gyno isn’t exactly a walk in the park (anyone else shudder at just the thought of the scary-looking—not to mention, cold—speculum?). But we’re here to normalize regularly seeing your OBGYN if you have a vagina, as well as creating dialogue around all the topics related to female wellness.
Enter: Dr. Lyndsey Harper, a practicing gynecologist in Texas and the founder of the Rosy app, and this week’s guest on The Everygirl Podcast. We asked Dr. Lyndsey listener questions on everything from discharge to fertility to squirting, and she had some incredibly helpful advice to share. Read on for her response to questions you might be too embarrassed to ask your own doctor, and check out this week’s episode of The Everygirl Podcast for more.
1. What should I do if I am experiencing painful periods?
As we have discussed before on The Everygirl Podcast, period pain is unfortunately very common, but should not be normalized: you deserve to have a pain-free period. According to Dr. Harper, the first step to addressing period pain is to acknowledge that it is happening, and to consciously ask why. “Painful periods can be due to a lot of different things—there are a lot of different causes to them, but those causes are well documented,” Dr. Harper said. According to her, the quickest path to treating period pain will be to set up a time with your physician (separately from your yearly wellness exam) to discuss your symptoms, find a potential cause, and seek a solution together.
2. What are some common factors that can impact fertility?
Whether you are hoping to get pregnant sometime in the near future, or you just want to know more about how to best prepare your body for pregnancy eventually, fertility is a huge question that can be scary to ask about. One audience question we received was whether the age at which you get your first period can impact the age at which your egg quality declines. According to Dr. Harper, the short answer is yes: however old you are at your first period can, to some extent, impact how old you are when you experience menopause. Some other factors that can impact fertility, especially if you are trying to conceive in the coming months, are diet, exercise, and stress management.
3. Is discharge normal, and should I ever be worried about the color of my discharge?
Dr. Harper says discharge is one of the concerns that she hears the most often, but discharge is (usually) completely normal and healthy. “This is not the sexiest comparison, but the vagina is a mucus membrane, and so in order to keep itself lubricated, it makes stuff, like your nose,” Dr. Harper explained on The Everygirl Podcast. Normal discharge is clear or white, and has an egg white-like texture. According to her, discharge is a cause for concern only if it is green, yellow, has a thicker texture, or seems abnormal than your typical discharge. Otherwise, consider your discharge a totally normal part of your body’s functioning!
4. Why is it painful for me to have sex?
PSA: Sex should only be pleasurable. So if you’re experiencing any discomfort between the sheets, seek help from your gyno or a pelvic floor therapist. According to Dr. Harper, sexual pain is wildly under-discussed, as 75% of women will experience sexual pain at some point in their lives. As for what’s the culprit behind painful sex? “When you talk about sexual pain, there are a lot of different types of sexual pain,” Dr. Harper said. “There is a type of sexual that is painful right on the opening to the vagina, on the vulva, and then there’s another type of sexual pain that is painful at the top of the vagina.” Since there are lots of different potential causes of vaginismus or sexual pain, talking to your OB-GYN, a pelvic floor therapist, and even a regular therapist can be helpful in finding the source of the problem and coming up with a solution.
5. Why does squirting happen, and is it normal?
A highly controversial topic, squirting is one of those “mysteries” about women’s sexual health that just hasn’t been explained yet. Dr. Harper said that even in the science world, there are still some people who are skeptical that the pelvic floor squeezes on a specific gland during orgasm in order to cause squirting. However, from her perspective, squirting is perfectly normal. But at the end of the day, perhaps the most important thing is not necessarily why squirting happens, but rather that it is a pleasurable experience in the first place. “People have different responses to pleasure and the release that is experienced with orgasm,” Dr. Harper said. “While I think it’s important to know the science behind orgasm, I don’t think that in terms of sexual experience that we always have to be seeing it from a scientific perspective.”
6. How do I determine what type of birth control is best for me?
It goes without saying that birth control is a personal choice. It can be overwhelming and confusing to choose a birth control method that checks all the boxes for your needs and lifestyle. When deciding the best method for you, talk it out with your physician. We received a lot of audience questions about how to get off of oral contraceptives, but just because The Pill is very common does not mean that it is the only option, especially for specifically addressing pregnancy prevention. “There are options, which is always good, but none of them are perfect,” Dr. Harper said regarding birth control. “There’s not a right method for every person, but the important thing is to know what those are, and to know which one you might want to try.”
7. If my state outlaws abortion, what are my options for unintended pregnancy?
In light of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, it’s no surprise there’s a lot of confusion and fear around reproductive health and abortion (it’s OK to feel all the feels, BTW). Whether or not you’re pregnant, arming yourself with information and resources from a trusted source (read: your OBGYN) is never a bad idea. But if you find yourself at a loss as to what safe recourse you have in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, check out a virtual clinic like Hey Jane.
8. How do I talk to my partner about STIs/STDs?
Sure, we can list a hundred things we’d rather do than get tested for STIs/STDs—let alone talk about them—but think of it as a form of self-care. And as awkward as it may be, having a direct conversation about STIs/STDs with your partner is necessary. After all, you can’t go wrong creating a safe space for open and honest dialogue surrounding sexual health. It may just bring you and your SO closer and make the sex even better (talk about a win-win).
Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.