If we needed to compare, your body is like James Franco—wild, unpredictable, and hard to read. So when something slightly odd happens in your nether regions for a hot second, your instinct is probably to shrug it off. But—not to freak you out—sometimes these little things can signal bigger problems. To assess these maybe-not-so-small quirks, we talked to Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, and Alyssa Dweck (opens in new tab), M.D., author of V Is for Vagina (opens in new tab), to decode common issues women may have with their vaginas. Seriously, it's time to speak up and ask anything and everything. These people have seen and heard it all.
If you're experiencing heavy bleeding during your period
Aunt Flo may come in a tsunami, but how much you excrete is totally individual—but some say if you soak through a tampon in an hour or less (opens in new tab), it's a sign of excessive bleeding. Yep, if your period situation reminds you of the red wedding scene in Game of Thrones (opens in new tab), it could signal diseases such as a hypo/hyperthyroid, fibroids, and endometriosis. And since your period is a natural way your body expels blood, your doctor needs to be sure you're not losing too much—leading to anemia or other health problems.
If your period goes missing
Wild guess, but your first thought was probably, "I'm pregnant." And obviously, you'd be right...in some instances. Aside from a bun in the oven, MIA periods could be a reaction to stress, hormonal imbalances, or even ovarian syndrome. For women suffering an eating disorder, this phenomenon can be prevalent.
If your pee burns
Chances are your urethra is infected, causing a urinary tract infection (UTI). They're a pain (literally) to deal with, but your gyno can help you get over them quickly.
If you pee a lot or notice leakage
Typically, frequent trips to the bathroom or some spotting could be an indication of a low-grade UTI or just an overactive bladder . In rare cases, excessive peeing could also be an early sign of diabetes.
If you notice a funky odor
PSA: There's no such thing as a "perfect"-smelling vagina. Pineapple…sweetness…blah, blah, shut up. Yes, certain foods can affect the odor down there (asparagus and garlic, in particular), but the scent should disappear in a day or so. However, if you notice an unusual odor for an extended period of time, it could be a sign of an infection.
If you've had unprotected sex
Do we really have to dive into this? Three biggies: STD, STI, pregnancy. Probably more, but you get the gist.
If your vagina hurts during sex
Um, hello! P-to-V insertion should feel pleasurable. Most of the time common ailments like a yeast infection or vaginal dryness are the culprits.
If you take Plan B regularly
There's no real harm to taking the morning-after pill. But if you find yourself taking it semi frequently, you might want to talk to your doctor about a better birth control method.
If you have questions about birth control
Speaking of which, thinking about going off the Pill and opting for an IUD? Forget to take a few this month? A lot can happen with your birth control. No matter what the newest TV commercial advertises, your gyno is the best resource to turn to when is comes to your anti-pregnancy plan.
If you're sleeping with more than one person
Get it, giiiirl. Do you, but do know who you're having sex with. You might use protection (the Pill and a condom, for instance) with each new one-on-one, but you can get STDs and infections other ways, too (ahem, orally). A major one gynos look out for is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer. No one's going to slut shame you, especially not your doctor. His or her one priority is keeping you healthy.
If you ever plan on getting pregnant
Not to rush you into making mini-yous—because really, what's the hurry?—but you should know your options. After all, your fertility changes as you age. Think of it like a 401K: The more you invest in your body now, the more prepared you'll be for the future.
You should also check out:
6 Period Problems You Should Never Ignore (opens in new tab)
Is Your Vagina High-Maintenance? (opens in new tab)
Male Birth Control Pills Could Become a Reality (opens in new tab)
When I'm not stalking future-but-never-going-to-happen husbands on Facebook, you can catch me eating at one of NYC's B-rated or below dining establishments—A-rated restaurants are for basics. Fun fact: Bloody Marys got me into eating celery on the regular. And for your safety, please do not disturb before 10 a.m. or coffee, whichever comes first.
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