Photograph by jannoon028/Freepik
Like, Pap smears aren’t the answer…
Yeah, we know: nobody wants to still around the gynae’s office too long. But there are questions you should be asking — and some pretty important things you should know. Here are the six things your gynae would tell you, if you gave her the chance.
1. Know Your Bumps
Skin tags, inflamed follicles, shaving irritation and plain old pimples (yes, down there) can all cause genitalarea bumps. STI sores vary widely in appearance and are sometimes painless or hard to see. Call your doc but keep calm: your lump might be ugly but innocuous.
2. Pap Smears Aren’t The Answer
“Many women believe that if they’ve had a Pap smear, they’re clear of STIs, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Dr Elna Rudolph. “A Pap smear only looks for precancerous cells caused by HPV. It does not screen for HPV itself, or any other STI.”
3. It’s Never Too Late
If you already have an STI, you may think you don’t need testing. Wrong. “New research from Gardasil [a company that produces HPV vaccines] shows that HPV vaccinations are useful even for people who already have the virus – they prevent you from contracting other strains,” explains Dr Marlene Wasserman.
4. Relax, It’s The Un-STI
Anything that throws off your vagina’s natural bacterial balance (sex, your period, bubble bath) can result in the über-common BV (bacterial vaginosis). Its symptoms – discharge, fishy odour, burning – mirror those of many STIs, but it’s not sexually transmitted or harmful in and of itself. BV can, however, lower your defences against actual STIs, so be sure to ask your doctor for treatment.
5. Consider A New Shield
Female condoms guard the vagina, vulva and surrounding skin, so they may offer more protection than condoms against STIs spread via skin-to-skin contact. (In a recent Women’s Health poll, 40 percent of you said you’d be willing to try a female condom.)
6. Check your girl parts
You might feel a little squeamish, but it will quickly become a monthly routine. “Make sure you’re completely in touch with your vagina,” says Wasserman. “Know its daily smells and discharges, so that when it changes you know something’s up.”