3 Questions Your Gynecologist Wants You to Ask That Most Women Don't

August 6th 2016

Taylor Bell

Only 17 percent of women go to the gynecologist for an annual exam, and if you're among those who don't go, you might really be missing out.

You may see your gynecologist as the one to diagnose medical problems "down there" and perform a pap smear every six months. But a gynecologist can serve as a much greater resource than you think — if you know what questions to ask.

ATTN: spoke with Nichole Tyson, an OB-GYN at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, and asked her what questions women should be asking when they visit a gynecologist.

1. What method of birth control is right for my body? Should I be on birth control?

This depends on your age and whether or not you want to get pregnant. But birth control should be a top priority, Tyson said.

"I think every woman should be focused on preventing pregnancy until they're ready to be pregnant," Tyson said, adding: "I think it's sort of a big responsibility for a woman who's living a normal life: ... To take and tackle that responsibility, ... until there's male birth control, which is hopefully coming."

Here are some common misconceptions about birth control, Casey Guren wrote in Women's Health:

  • Birth control makes it harder to get pregnant in the future. 
  • The pill makes you gain weight. 
  • New forms of birth control aren't as safe as older methods.

Tyson advised talking and confiding with your doctor: "What are your fears about this method? ... A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions and misinformation and are afraid to take hormones or all these different type of stigmas," she said.

"There are some that are much better than others and long-lasting," Tyson said. "So learning about birth control and what's best for you is a super important female responsibility."

Not every birth control method works for every person. An underlying medical condition such as diabetes can affect your choice of birth control, Tyson said.

2. What are my resources for sexual violence?

Gynecologists are masters at dealing with the physical anatomy of your vagina, but they can also be great confidants and resources to help you deal with issues of sexual abuse and violence.

"We can obviously give some good advice, but we also have a lot of connections with our local resources," Tyson said. "So, depending on where people live, we have full connections with the police to child protective services ... to other various organizations [including safe houses] that will support women who are victims of violence [as well as] their children or families." She added: "As physicians, we have connections to these resources, and so then we can help women and keep it in a private way. The more that they come forward, the more that we can give them connections to help."

Gynecologists make a priority of preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies, as well as making sure patients have safe sexual relationships and encounters, Tyson said.

3. What vaccines are appropriate for me, and what STDs should I get tested for?

This is a question that all women of all ages should be asking, Tyson said.

You may already be aware of tests and vaccines such as ones for HPV, but it all comes down to what your body needs. Women should be aware of the tests that are available to them and get them if appropriate.