A few years ago, we talked about five awkward, uncomfortable and downright embarrassing issues that women often avoid discussing at their gynecological exams. It’s continued to be the most popular article on VirtuaWoman.org, and it got us thinking: Did we leave anything out?
Here are four more of the common concerns that get us tongue-tied at the doctor’s office, with added wisdom from Virtua obstetrician and gynecologist Laura Dalton, DO.
The Buzz about Sex Toys
“A lot more women use sex toys than you might think,” says Dr. Dalton. Once relegated to sex shops, you can now discretely purchase sex toys online and sometimes find certain toys at your local drug store.
While there’s not a lot of medical literature on the use of sex toys, Dr. Dalton’s reading and expertise suggests that these implements do not interfere with or harm healthy sexual relationships. From a medical perspective, the most important considerations are proper use and care.
“Follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” Dr. Dalton advises. “Also, toys should be cleaned after each use.” Some manufacturers sell their own cleaning products; some can be cleaned with any mild household detergent.
Let them dry fully before storing to avoid the buildup of dampness, which can encourage mold or bacterial growth.
“Most women don’t have an orgasm every time they have sex,” says Dr. Dalton. “But the key to having one is an encounter in which you trust you partner and you feel warm, comfortable and loved. If any of these are lacking, it just may not be possible to surrender in the way needed to orgasm.”
In addition to these emotional components, Dr. Dalton points out that different women may respond to different types of stimulation. “Some women can have an orgasm from penetration; some can have one simply by fantasizing; some prefer clitoral stimulation,” she says. “There’s no one right way. Everybody is not going to achieve simultaneous orgasm with their partner, for example, or have the multiple-orgasm experience some women talk about.”
With so much individual variation, Dr. Dalton says the most important question to ask yourself is: “Am I satisfied with my sexual relationship?” If not, talking to your doctor about it may yield surprising benefits.
Choose Your Lube
Lubricants are a great tool for making sex more comfortable and pleasurable for all women, especially those who’ve ever experienced dryness or pain from the friction of intercourse.
Dr. Dalton generally recommends water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturizers. “Be wary of colors, flavors or fragrances, especially if you have sensitive skin,” she advises.
Some newer products have added ingredients that have the effect of warming, or increasing blood flow or sensitivity. These can be great, says Dr. Dalton, but individual results will vary: “Buy the smallest size possible, and take a trial-and-error approach.”
The Hair Down There
Shaving or waxing one’s pubic hair is an increasingly popular trend in recent years, although Dr. Dalton is quick to say that everybody is not necessarily doing it, and there’s no medical reason to go bare.
“It’s really an appearance decision,” she says. “If you do decide to remove your pubic hair, just know that you need to be more cautious about skin care, as you’re more vulnerable to infections.”
Small cuts and ingrown hairs can become targets for bacteria. Be sure to use antibiotic cream or soap after hair removal, and take care to avoid lake or beach swimming for at least 24 hours (these waters are more likely to contain bacteria than fresh or chlorine treated sources).
“Wearing cotton underwear will also help reduce the risk of infection,” she says. “And if a cut or ingrown hair remains red, warm or painful after a few days, make an appointment with your doctor.”