Checking Up Down There
A Q&A with Dr. Marina Maslovaric
Seeing your gynecologist isn't usually at the top of women's to-do lists unless there's a problem. However, not seeing your GYN regularly can possibly result in bigger health issues down the line. We asked Dr. Marina Maslovaric about when, why and how often you should see your doctor as well as some other gynecological questions.
How often should you visit your GYN?
The American College of OBGYN advises annual exams with your OBGYN. It is not only an opportunity to review any current health issues, but also an opportunity to counsel patients about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and minimizing their health risks factors. Components of the exam include review of personal health history, family history, lifestyle practices, and of course a full physical exam. There is also preventative testing, cancer screening, and immunization recommendations which vary based on age group and risk factors.
What are questions to ask/issues to bring up with your doctor?
OB-GYN's are not only considered specialists but primary care physicians as well. Our training is broad and we therefore can help address all issues with the patient and, if it is not within our scope of practice, we are very well-trained to help start initial work up and treatment for a person. Common questions can include review of menstrual history, sexual practices, contraception, current medications, over the counter supplement use, diet, exercise, work life balance, sleep hygiene, stress coping and management, family health history, possible safety concerns in relationships, etc.
There are so many stories in the news about shaving. From a medical standpoint, is it healthier to shave your pubic hair or let it grow naturally?
From a medical standpoint it is healthier to leave the pubic hair alone. Pubic hair helps prevent pathogens from entering the vagina and helps decrease risk of infection such as yeast infections, bacterial infections, and even genital warts. Pubic hair won’t completely eliminate risk of infection, but it can help reduce the risk.
What is the starting age for menopause? What are the symptoms to look out for?
Average age of menopause is 51-52. Menopause by definition means there has been a one year of time lapse since last period. Therefore there is no “test” for it but rather it is defined by measuring time from last period.
Blood tests can be confusing since menopause hormone levels can be detected even earlier during younger years when women might be skipping just a few months of periods.
Typical symptoms of menopause include cycle irregularity. Most women start to have less frequent periods and will periodically skip a period. Common hormone side effects include hot flashes, depression, anxiety and mood swings. Many women in menopause experience trouble sleeping and insomnia. There is some mild memory loss that can occur as well. Women typically notice weight gain which occurs despite no changes in diet and exercise factors. A large number of women will start to experience vaginal dryness due to lack of estrogen and decrease in natural lubrication.
What are the best types of lubricants to use?
There are 3 major categories of lubricants that are commonly used.
1. Oil-based lubricant - for example baby oil / mineral oil / petroleum jellies / hand creams. People sometimes use these since they are easy to find around the house but they can easily damage the latex in condoms, can potentially interfere with fertility and damage sperm. Also some women can potentially develop vaginal yeast or bacterial infections related to its use.
2. Water-based lubricants - most common type. For example KY Jelly and Astroglide are common over the counter brands. These have no taste, no smell, and feel like natural lubrication.
3. Silicone-based lubricants - For example Replens and some Astroglide products. These are similar to water based varieties and are usually safe with condom use. The benefit is that the effect is longer lasting than a water-based lubricant and will not dry out quickly.
When should you definitely see your doctor and when can you use OTC remedies?
If you are having new symptoms/first occurrence, it is always best to go in and get a diagnosis. With some common diagnoses such as yeast infection/vaginal itching, if you were diagnosed with before, then you could consider treating with over-the-counter options, and only come in for evaluation if it was not resolved.
Some vaginal odor is normal, but when should you be concerned? What can you do to prevent odor?
Our body has a complex natural cleansing systems that involves a delicate balance of microorganisms. Vaginal odor can be affected by normal bodily functions. Hormone changes during the cycle can affect vaginal secretions, as well as menstruation, sexual activity, and perspiration. Typically physiologic odor changes do not need to be treated; only if they are result of an infection.
If a woman desires, there are a number of over-the-counter products that are safe to use for odor changes and restore “feminine freshness.”
Strong, pungent, or foul vaginal odors can be a sign of infection. Also itching, and irritation that accompany odor are typically seen in cases of vaginal infections. These are some signs for which to seek help with medical profession.
Marina Maslovaric, MD, FACOG, strongly believes in patient education, actively involving her patients in their medical decision making, and allowing ample time for her patients to discuss all their concerns. Dr.Maslovaric is fully dedicated to women’s health. She firmly believes in empowering her patients to make informed decisions that align with their personal beliefs. Click here to learn more about Dr. Maslovaric and her practice.
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