It’s the telltale predicament you always seem to find yourself in: It’s the night before your gyno appointment, and all of a sudden it hits you—your downstairs region isn’t exactly, err, groomed. If the thought of stripping down without a clean-up drives you bonkers, go ahead and do what you have to do. Otherwise, forget about it, because your gyno doesn’t care. “You don’t have to shave your legs or wax your vulva,” says Draion M. Burch, D.O., a board-certified ob-gyn and sexual health advisor.. “I’m not paying any attention to those things.”
“Patients worry about how their vagina smells, but I actually worry about how their feet are going to smell,” says Burch. “When a patient is getting a Pap smear, her feet are the closest to my nose.” Fair enough, fair enough.
So many women are terrified of pooping while giving birth, but doctors couldn’t care less. “Nearly all women poop while pushing out their babies,” says Leena Shankar Nathan, M.D., associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “We are used to it and know how to deal with it, so just accept that it’s probably going to happen and don’t worry about having a bowel movement in front of us.” In other words, keep calm and push on.
Let’s get one thing straight: Menstrual blood does not make your ob-gyn queasy, so if you calculated your dates wrong (or simply forgot) and wound up with your period on check-in day, don’t reschedule. “Births, particularly C-sections, are quite bloody, so I can assure you that you having your period while I’m examining you is not a problem in the slightest,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. Just be sure to call your doctor’s office ahead of time if you’re due for a Pap smear—some offices use an updated test that can separate menstrual blood from cervical cells, but others don’t, so you’ll need to know your office’s capabilities.
You might feel awkward describing that downstairs itch, but Barb DePree, M.D., director of women’s midlife services at Holland Hospital in Holland, MI, says it’s actually important that you fess up to those kinds of details—especially because an exam can really help. “If you are experiencing itching in your vulva, it actually isn’t all that likely to be a yeast infection,” she says. “It’s more likely to be related to something that caused contact irritation, or a vulvar skin issue. Some women put up with months to years of irritation before seeking an exam, so don’t assume itching and irritation is just a normal part of life for women. It isn’t!”