Ask the OB-GYN
A trip to the gynecologist can be very stressful for a lot of women, and can often cause some to avoid asking questions that need to be asked. "It's extremely common," explains Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, an OB-GYN. "You only have a few minutes of face time with your Gyn, and you're nervous anyway, so we tend to forget our questions. And we all fear that the doctor is going to hear our question and go, 'Uh, what an idiot!'" Luckily, three brave audience members put aside their fear to ask Dr. Hilda some questions:
My girlfriends and I, our cycles are completely different, and my cycle varies from month to month -- what is normal?
"Every woman is different," Dr. Hilda says. "It's not uncommon for your cycle to change from month to month, depending on how much stress you're under, if you're taking medications, and as you get older it changes. What's important is the amount of blood that you lose every month." Dr. Hilda explains that the average blood loss per cycle is about 2 to 3 tablespoons, and that a heavy cycle is about a third of cup. "When it gets this heavy," she points out, "you really should give your doctor a call and find out what the problem is."
In terms of length, Dr. Hilda says, "Your cycle should be between 21 and 45 days, and should last 1-7 days of flow."
How do you really know when you've had that big 'O'?
"The truth is, 10 percent of women have never had an orgasm," Dr. Hilda say. "But the short answer is, when you have one, you'll know it!" She explains that the first stage is called arousal, when the blood flow is increasing and you're starting to get warmer. "If you were a tea kettle," Dr. Hilda says, "you'd be just starting to simmer a little bit."
"The next stage would be a heightened arousal," she continues. "Your blood pressure's going up, your heart rate's going up, you're breathing faster and that kettle is boiling at this point! And then the part that everybody wants to know about, the big 'O.' You get these involuntary contractions or pulsations in your pelvis -- and it's extremely pleasurable. And all of that leads to that state of just pure relaxation and contentment."
"Or for gentlemen," Rachael jokes, "a nap or a snack!"
Dr. Hilda says, "I think it's really important that I tell women, orgasms should not be a goal, because when you put so much pressure on yourself to perform, you actually decrease the amount of pleasure that you have from the experience. And 70 percent of women do not have orgasms through intercourse alone. But the good news is, women can have multiple orgasms and men cannot!"
What exactly happens during a gynecological examination?
"The first thing we do is we take a look and make sure everything looks all right from the outside," Dr. Hilda explains. "And then we do the part that every woman hates, the speculum exam. A lot of women don't know that they come in different sizes, so if you're someone who has a lot of pain when you have your pelvic exam, it's OK to say to your doctor, 'Can I have a smaller speculum?' because the size makes a difference." Dr. Hilda explains that if the metal speculum is too cold, you are allowed to ask the doctor to warm it up first.
"Once we go in," Dr. Hilda continues, "we're looking at the cervix, which looks like a donut. We take a little stick, scrape around the donut and take off cells, then send it to the pathologist to rule out cervical cancer. Then we take a little brush that looks like a mascara wand [and put it] in the hole of the donut and we twist it around to get some more cells for the pap smear. And then we use a little Q-tip if you want to be tested for sexually transmitted infections."
Dr. Hilda says that women 30 and older should also ask the doctor to perform a test to detect the human papillomavirus (HPV). "It's separate from the pap smear, and this is important for ruling out cervical cancer." As far as the issue of vaccinating teen girls against the virus, Dr. Hilda says, "I usually recommend that we vaccinate from the age of 13."
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