SEATTLE -- There are some health topics that are so taboo, so embarrassing, that women won’t even talk about them in the privacy of a doctor’s office. To address these concerns Swedish Medical Center is hosting a live, online chat during which women can ask health questions anonymously.
“There are a lot of young women who aren't well informed about their bodies,” says Anita Tourigny, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and women’s health expert who will be answering questions during the online chat. “There’s a need for this kind of information to be made available.”
Tourigny says women are free to ask her anything, but she’s prepared a list of some of the more common concerns women hesitate to bring up:
I’ve never had an orgasm, is that normal?
Tourigny: Many women do not have orgasms from penetrative sex and need more direct clitoral stimulation. It can be helpful to explore what feels best and have a playful attitude. You can explore on your own or with a partner.
How can I avoid getting bladder infections?
Tourigny: Good hygiene, such as wiping front to back after having a bowel movement, is helpful. Many women seem more likely to get bladder infections after having sex. I encourage women to urinate and have a glass of water before sex. After sex, urinate again to rinse out any germs that may have been introduced into the urinary tract during sex.
I bleed or experience pain during sex, should I be worried?
Tourigny: Women who experience bleeding between periods or after sex should contact their health care provider. Bleeding can be a sign of infection or possibly a polyp (abnormal growth of tissue). It could also be associated with an abnormal Pap test. Pain could be a sign of infection or possibly endometriosis.
How heavy should my period be?
Tourigny: Periods usually occur every 21 to 35 days, with fluid loss of between a few tablespoons and eight tablespoons. Women should be concerned if their period is heavier than usual or comes too early or late. If the pattern suddenly changes or you have more pain than usual, you may want to see your provider.
We recommend visiting your provider if you do not get your period by the time you turn 16.
My pregnancy test is negative, could it be wrong?
Tourigny: A negative test doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t pregnant; it may just be too early to show. Women who suspect they are pregnant should take a urine pregnancy test at home. If it is negative, plan to repeat the test in one week if your period still hasn’t come. If your test is positive, practice good health habits and make an appointment with your obstetrician to discuss your next steps.
What should I do if I have vaginal odor or itch?
Tourigny: We recommend that women see their health care provider if an odor is present. Itching can be from infection or from local irritants, such as body soap, laundry or menstrual products or from activities, such as bike riding or hot-tubbing.
When do I need to have a pelvic exam?
Tourigny: We recommend women get their first Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, at age 21. The Pap test can be taken as part of a pelvic exam, which includes looking at the outer genitals, a visual exam of the vagina and cervix, and feeling of the pelvic organs including the uterus and ovaries. Many services can be provided without doing an exam, so please do not put off a visit if you hope to avoid the examination. Having a professional breast examination is good, too. We like to see women annually.
Will my doctor tell my parents about my pregnancy or STD test?
Tourigny: Care for pregnancy, STD concerns and drug and alcohol care is available without parental consent for those 14 years old or above. It is wonderful if you can confide in your adult family members, but the decision to do so is up to you. At your appointment, make sure to confirm how you will be contacted for billing and test results. Swedish and affiliated clinics have “My Chart,” which is a secure online communication tool that allows you to ask your provider questions and see test results online.
Tourigny will answer more questions on menstruation, sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and more live in an anonymous online chat at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15.