4 Tips Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Health ‘Down There,’ According to Gynecologist, Mary Jane Minkin, MD., LLC

GUILFORD, Conn.–A survey of 391 women conducted by the Women’s Sexual Health Foundation found that 72% of respondents are uncomfortable talking to their gyno about “the sexy stuff,” but 73% would rather die than ask the Doc, “What’s up.”

“If something serious is going on, early diagnosis is CRUCIAL,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine, author of A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Health. Believe it or not, talking to your doctor can calm your fears and get your problems solved. Below are a few questions and answers I get from my patients.”

1. I am recently single and worried about getting an STD. Should I get the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is approved by the FDA for girls and women ages 9 to 26 and is recommended by the CDC, the American College of Obstetrics, Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics. There is actually a new improved vaccine active against 9 strains of HPV and protects against 75% of cancers—so even better! Check out Gardisil 9 website to get the direct scoop. Remember, the HPV vaccine does not protect women from other STD’s—so, be sure to use a condom.

2. Sometimes I have an odor the morning after sex or my period. Why does it happen and what can I do?

Don’t worry—you aren’t dirty and washing with perfumed soap or douching won’t help—it will only make it worse! This happens because the vaginal pH has been thrown out of balance. Think of your vagina as a delicate ecosystem that needs to be maintained at a pH of 3.5 to 4.5. The pH of semen has a pH of 8 and blood has a pH of 7.4, so, when introduced to the vagina, an odor or itch can occur—usually the morning after having sex or toward the end of your period. Lots of women douche to feel clean and fresh, but understand that water has a pH of 7—so while it might make you feel fresh for a short time, it won’t solve the problem. Right after using the douche solution, make sure to balance the pH to normal. Over-the-counter, RepHresh Gel is clinically shown to restore the normal vaginal pH and eliminate vaginal odor.

3. I have a lot of discharge and irritation, but over the counter yeast medications don’t work.

Of women who self-treat for yeast: two thirds do not actually have a yeast infection at all: 1/3 have bacterial vaginosis (BV), a proliferation of “bad” bacteria, often caused by an unbalanced vaginal pH, and the other 1/3 have an allergic/irritant type reaction to scented products, etc. If you aren’t sure whether your symptoms indicate BV or a yeast infection, you should absolutely see your doctor before you apply any over-the-counter treatment. Not only is bacterial vaginosis uncomfortable and frustrating, but untreated BV can also increase the risk of premature birth, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even sexually transmitted diseases. Once BV is diagnosed, a course of antibiotics is required to eliminate the symptoms. Recurrence rates are very high. The best way to prevent recurrent BV is to maintain a normal vagina pH.

4. I’m menopausal and have been experiencing discomfort.

The majority of postmenopausal women show an increase in vaginal pH within 12-24 months of discontinuing estrogen therapy or as estrogen levels decline naturally, and most women will also experience dryness. Replens Moisturizer can be used as often as every 3-5 days for comfort and to bring the pH to its normal levels.

“If going to the gyno isn’t at the top of the list, it should definitely be right up there. A well-established relationship with your gynecologist is a MUST in order to have a successful visit. Remember to take your notes and questions in with you so you don’t forget anything. Talking about your anxieties can make the rest of the appointment a piece of cake,” adds Minkin.