Women's Private Health Concerns, Discussed


Normal menstruation occurs every 21 to 35 days, when the uterus sheds its lining. While abnormal bleeding can be harmless due to ovulation or hormone changes, it can also be a sign of a variety of conditions, including endometrial cancer, miscarriage, sexually transmitted disease, hormonal changes and uterine fibroids.

Especially in older women, Repke said, "Post-menopausal bleeding should never be ignored, and should never be considered normal. While the leading cause of post-menopausal bleeding is atrophic vaginitis, this is a diagnosis of exclusion and the diagnosis that must be ruled out is cancer, specifically cancer of the endometrium."

Am I Normal?

Some of the questions that cause women the most concern and thought have nothing to do with serious medical issues, but rather, the physical appearance of their breasts and vagina.

Breasts, nipples, labia and pubic hair come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and by and large, a woman is more likely normal than not.

While doctors said that the 'am I normal' questions are not as prevalent in older women, many teens and women in their 20s often wonder what they are supposed to look like.

"Few women put a mirror down there and look at their vulva, and they want to know if they're normal in regards to looks," said LaValleur. "They often just need reassurance that they're normal."

Along with appearance of the vagina, another worry for some women is smell. Doctors say a slight musky scent is totally normal. A fishy smell can indicate a yeast infection, which can be easily treated with prescribed medication. In some cases, a bad odor can also indicate a sexually transmitted disease. A woman should see her doctor if an odor persists. In the meantime, she should clean the external pubic area with a mild soap and avoid douching, as it can make the potential infection worse.

Whatever the condition or question, doctors encourage all their patients to feel comfortable sharing any concern they have when it comes to their well-being or their body. And, because of this, women should find a doctor with whom they feel comfortable discussing personal matters.

"I wish there was a social network for trying out doctors," said Harper. "Because we discuss personal and detailed parts of our intimate life with a doctor, it would be nice if there was some way to preview what a doctor's personality was like."

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