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Top Questions To Ask Your Obstetrician / Gynecologist

Don’t be afraid to ask your OB/GYN anything! OB/GYN Dr. Staci Tanouye shares answers to common questions from her patients.

1. Why did I get dizzy/throw up/faint on my period?

Both throwing up and dizziness can happen in the week before your period starts, when the uterus
lining gets thick and produces hormones called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins can get in the
blood stream and go everywhere, causing headaches, nausea, diarrhea, back pain and dizziness.
Anemia, which can be caused by chronic heavy periods, can also cause dizziness. These symptoms
should taper off a few days into your cycle.

To relieve these symptoms, I recommend drinking plenty of water and taking ibuprofen according to
package directions. If this doesn't work, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about other
options. Additionally, any type of cramps can cause lightheadedness. If you are fainting, be sure to drink
a ton of water in the few days leading up to and during your period so your tank of blood is as full as it
can be making fainting much less likely.

2. Why is it so itchy down there during my period?

Causes of itching can range from irritants (like soap), to conditions like yeast infections, or moist
pads/underwear. Often, itchiness can be due to the fluctuation of hormones in your body. Right before
your period, they’re working hard to facilitate pregnancy, but then they start to shift when an egg isn’t
fertilized. The hormones estrogen and progesterone both decrease rapidly in the days leading up to
your period. That can cause your vulva to get dry and itchy – yikes!

Try using a cold washcloth to soothe, and know that the dryness should go away once your menstrual
flow begins. Additionally, make sure you’re changing your pad every few hours to avoid moisture and
irritation, and try menstrual pads with the right amount of absorbency. If the itching lasts for a more
than a couple days or you notice unusual discharge, make sure to see your healthcare provider.

3. Why am I sore during my period?

There are a couple reasons you might experience soreness during your period:

  • Cramping in the pelvic area can cause soreness in the vagina and vulva.
  • The PH of the vagina that changes during your cycle can allow for bacterial or yeast
    overgrowth, which can cause soreness or itchiness. Hormones are at their lowest during
    your period, which triggers the period to start. But lower hormones can also cause and
    increase in vaginal dryness, which can lead to a sore vagina. You can try personal lubricant
    around your labia next time and know the soreness will get better with time and as your
    flow gets a bit heavier.

Typically, soreness only occurring with your period is not alarming. However, consult your healthcare
provider if symptoms interfere with your daily life.

4. What’s a normal smell down there?

At different points in your cycle, cervical mucus changes in consistency (from watery, thin mucus to
thicker, whiter mucus), and the odor it may produce will change too – from barely any odor to a more
vinegary odor. Slight vaginal odor is normal, but if you notice more potent, unusual smells, it could be
time to call your doctor in case of conditions like yeast infections or Bacterial vaginosis.

Specifically during your cycle, you may notice a slight metallic smell from your blood which is made up of
iron. Believe it or not, menstrual blood has no odor, but because blood is a great place for bacteria to
grow, the normal bacteria we all have in our vaginas or on the skin outside take hold and grow. When
menstrual blood mixes with our own bodies, bacteria and odor may develop. One way to address this is
ensuring you are using menstrual pads or tampons with the right amount of absorbency. If you change
your pad more often, every couple of hours when you are flowing more, you can feel clean and avoid

5. Yeast infections: what are they and what should I do?

Yeast infections are common, usually not serious and can be treated easily and fairly quickly. You
shouldn’t feel ashamed about having a yeast infection! Yeast naturally grows in our vaginas along with
other “good” bacteria, but sometimes these levels can become imbalanced, caused by things like taking
antibiotics, pregnancy, or health problems like diabetes or a compromised immune system.

Symptoms can include

  • Constant itching
  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal (whitish, cheesy) discharge

You can avoid yeast infections through a healthy diet, wearing breathable clothing, avoiding feminine
perfumes or scented products around the vagina. It’s important to see a healthcare professional before
trying any treatments. From there, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter medications like a
solution to be inserted into the vagina or they might prescribe a medication. Depending on which type
you choose, treatment can take anywhere from one to seven days to complete.

6. What is the difference between pregnancy symptoms and period symptoms?

PMS signs (signs that your period is about to start) and the signs that you may be pregnant can be

  • Tender breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Cravings for certain foods

Unfortunately the best way to determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are due to pregnancy or
your period is just to wait. Some women may experience “implantation bleeding” after they become
pregnant, which can involve minor cramping and light bleeding similar to a period. That’s why it’s
important to keep track of your cycle with a period calculator. Once you actually start your period, that
is usually a good indicator that you are not pregnant.

There are many causes to a late period, including stress (sometimes caused by worrying about your
period being late!) so don’t jump to conclusions right away. If your period was pretty regular and now
you have some changes, see your healthcare provider right away to talk about what’s going on in your
life that might cause the changes you are noticing.

7. Can you have sex or masturbate while you’re on your period?

You can have sex and masturbate while on your period, but I recommend removing a tampon
beforehand to avoid pushing it farther up in the vagina and avoid irritation or pain. You might also
notice your sex drive (or “libido”) shifts during your cycle, which is mostly due to hormonal shifts. Some
women even find that having an orgasm helps relieve cramps! You can enjoy sexual intimacy at any time
of the month, just remember to always have safe and protected sex.

8. How do you know your hymen is broken, or if it’s just a first menstrual cycle?

The hymen is a thin ring-shaped piece of tissue that partially covers the opening to the vagina. It has a
hole in the middle of it, so it will stretch and may tear a little bit to accommodate activities like putting
in a tampon, having sex, athletic activity, riding a bike, etc. When the hymen is first separated, such as
with intercourse or tampon use, very mild bleeding and sometimes slight pain may occur. A stretched
hymen may bleed a tiny bit, but that blood should be very short lived.

Your first period, even if it is short, will last longer than just an hour or so, and the trickle of either red or
brownish blood that comes for a day or more probably hallmarks your first real period. You can use a
mirror to check it out for yourself (although it can be hard to see sometimes), or you can ask your
healthcare provider the next time you have an exam.

Author Summary:   Staci Tanouye, MD, OB-GYN is a physician in a private practice and an expert in
adolescent health, sexual health, reproductive health, and menopausal health. She has become one of
the leading gynecologists on social media with the mission to educate women and all people with vulvas
to love their bodies through knowledge and empowerment.

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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.