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Do changes in your feminine health have you running to YouTube University or Google School of Everything for answers…which only sends you down a rabbit hole of more questions than answers, until you find you’ve diagnosed yourself with something incurable and have given yourself three weeks to live? No? That’s just me, huh?
Even if you’re not as dramatic as the rest of us, one of the first steps in taking care of, and staying on top of, your feminine health is to speak with your gynecologist. And no matter how embarrassing or awkward it is, ask the burning questions you have concerning your health as a woman. Trust me, they have seen and heard it all, and then some.
Here are a few tips to help ease you into having those hard conversations with your gynecologist.
#1 Be honest with your healthcare provider
Any appointment you go to should be a judgement-free zone…but this is especially true when dealing with your feminine health. Make sure you’ve found a provider that makes you feel comfortable being open and honest with them. They’re going to ask some really personal questions and get all up in your business, so do yourself a favor and find a gynecologist that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or judged for being honest about your actions and any extracurricular activities you partake in. Be one hundred percent honest and open when it comes to your sexual history, the number of partners you’ve had, whether you use protection or not, birth control options, and especially any health concerns or past health history. Even if it seems tiny or unimportant to you, let your healthcare provider know, because some things take longer than others to show up on an exam.
#2 Think about and write down your questions before your appointment.
Even though we sit and sit and sit in the waiting room and the exam room for forever before we actually see the healthcare provider, the actual amount of time we spend being examined and speaking with our provider is limited. Give yourself the chance to get all your pressing questions answered by writing them down prior to your appointment. This helps you to not forget anything, and may even help with your anxiety and nervousness, since you’re reading your thoughts instead of coming up with them and trying to remember embarrassing or scary questions on the spot.
#3 Ask the embarrassing and uncomfortable questions first
Your healthcare provider has probably seen, and heard, it all before so go ahead and ask about whatever is giving you anxiety. Start with the most uncomfortable questions you have, that way you can get them out the way and relieve the anxiety that has been building up and stressing you out. You probably have their attention the most right in the beginning of the appointment, so ask your most pressing questions then, and not when they’re rushing and on their way out the door to see the next patient.
#4 What’s the first date of your last period?
You know you get asked this at every GYN appointment, probably every appointment you go to in general. Keeping track of your period helps to not only prevent (or plan) a pregnancy but can give your healthcare provider useful information about the overall health of your reproductive system. It also helps in determining whether you’re entering into perimenopause and determining when menopause has actually begun.
#5 Keep your regularly scheduled appointments
Make sure to visit your OB/GYN at least once a year, and don’t hesitate to make an appointment if something comes up or just doesn’t feel right. It’s better to go and nothing be ‘wrong’ than to wait and something bad happens. Prevention is always better than treatment.
#6 Understand your treatment options.
When tackling any type of health concern, it’s hard to focus on treatment options with so much coming at you at once. When speaking with your healthcare provider, always ask about the risks and benefits of any procedure, medication, or treatment option they provide. Also ask about alternative treatment options available to you. Remember, you have the right to refuse treatment or request a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. Know the options available to you before you decide on what you think is best.
Being open, honest, and involved in your care helps you to become your own advocate when dealing with the healthcare system. When you have questions, ask them. If you don’t understand something, ask and ask again. As a nurse, I’ve seen so many patients nod their head in agreement and understanding when speaking with the healthcare provider, only to bombard me with questions as soon as the provider leaves. If you still have questions, let them be known. Don’t put your health at risk for fear of looking embarrassed or uneducated to your provider. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s their job to help you understand so you can make better decisions regarding your treatment and overall health.
Brooklyn Palmer, Your Feminine Health Self-Advocate Coach
Brooklyn is a Post-Partum/Mother-Baby and Pediatric Registered Nurse, turned stay-at-home mom, who is making it her mission to keep women informed on how their individual bodies work, so that they can be their own feminine health advocate when something is ‘off’ for them. All bodies are different, and women need to know that what’s normal for others may not be normal for them, and vice versa. She has personally battled with post-partum depression, vaginal and vulva dryness, dyspareunia, and was placed in medically induced menopause in her mid-20s to try to find relief for some of these symptoms. Talking to friends and family was difficult, as many of them couldn’t relate to these issues. She is now focused on educating women about their bodies, so that they feel empowered to become their own feminine health and sexual wellness advocate when dealing with a healthcare system that oftentimes doesn’t take them or their symptoms seriously. Her mission to stop women, especially Black women, from suffering in silence and help them find their voice when it comes to their feminine health.