Gynecological FAQs

1) How can I tell if I am in menopause?
Menopause is considered to be 1 year without a menstrual period.

2) What is perimenopause?
This is a stage of life when the ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen.  It is characterized by hot flashes, breast tenderness, irregular periods, decreased libido, mood swings and difficulty sleeping.

3) What are the most common symptoms of menopause?
Hot flashes, night sweats, irregular periods, emotional changes, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness.

4) When should I have my first GYN exam?
You should have your first exam when you are 21 years of age.

5) Can I have a pap smear if I have my period?
Yes, if you have a light flow.

6) How Is HPV Spread?
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact — usually during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

 7) Should I get the HPV vaccine?
We offer the HPV vaccine for girls and women 9 through 26 years of age.  Ideally, females should get the vaccine before becoming sexually active (when they may be exposed to HPV). Females who are sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine.  The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.

 8) Why is the HPV vaccine only recommended for women through age 26?
The vaccine has been widely tested in girls and women 9 through 26 years of age.  New research is being done on the vaccine’s effects and safety for women older than 26 years of age.

 9) Do I need a Pap test if I have had a hysterectomy?
If hysterectomy was done for benign conditions, you do not need a pap test (which screens for cervical cancer); however you do need the annual pelvic exam and breast exam as part of screening for ovarian and breast cancer. Your yearly Well Woman appointment continues to be an important part of wellness and disease identification.

10) How often should I get PAP?
– Screening with the Pap test alone every 3 years is extremely safe and will decrease the number of false positive results without leading to an increase in cancer or cancer deaths

– For women ages 30 years and older, testing with both the HPV test and the Pap test further decreases the risk of cancer and advanced pre-cancers. When both tests are normal, no cervical cancer screening test should be done again for 5 years.

– Women younger than age 21, DO NOT need to be screened for cervical cancer.

– Women over the age of 65 who have been regularly screened, and women who have had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer or pre-cancer, should NO longer be screened.

– Women still need to see their doctors ANNUALLY for Well Women exam although they do not need PAP annually.

11) What do I do if I miss a birth control pill?
If you forget to take a birth control pill, take it as soon as you remember. If you don’t remember until the next day, go ahead and take 2 pills that day. If you forget to take your pills for 2 days, take 2 pills the day you remember and 2 pills the next day. You will then be back on schedule. If you miss more than 2 birth control pills, call your health care provider for instructions. Those instructions may be to take one pill daily until Sunday and then start a new pack or to discard the rest of the pill pack and start over with a new pack that same day.

Any time you forget to take a pill, use a back up method of contraception or abstain from intercourse for the next 7 days.

If you miss your period and have forgotten to take one or more pills, get a pregnancy test. Many women do not have a period on low dose birth control pills even if they don’t miss any pills.  This is considered normal and should not cause any concern.

12) Can I skip the placebo pills and start another pack to avoid getting my period?
Yes. Continuous use of birth control works best if you are taking a monophasic pill with the same dose in the 3 weeks of active pills. Triphasic pills have different amounts of hormones each week so using them continuously may cause break-through bleeding.

 13) What is the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis (BV)?
A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida. The candida yeast infection is NOT transmitted sexually, but is caused by baths, damp or tight clothes, or excess moisture in the vagina. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms often include inflammation, itching, and continued irritation. Other yeast infections signs include: pain during intercourse, frequent urination, and a thick, chunky, white discharge (like cottage cheese) from your vagina.

Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth or imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Many women experience no symptoms with BV.  If you do experience symptoms they will likely include itching, irritation, and redness. Other common symptoms include a gray, white, or smelly discharge from the vagina.

14) When should I call for pain and/or bleeding?

Bleeding:  call if:
-cycle is less than 21 days or greater than 42 days
-duration  is less than 1 day or greater than 8 days
-volume: soaking regular pad or tampon/1hr or 6+/12 hrs  (Go to the Emergency Room)
-pain with bleeding
-chance of pregnancy

 Pain: call if:
-associated with fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abnormal vaginal discharge
-associated with UTI (urinary tract infection) symptoms or back pain
-associated with unprotected intercourse, or exposure to STD`s

15) My mother has a history of breast cancer, when should I get my first mammogram?
If you are at a greater risk for breast cancer, beginning screening mammograms before age 40 is recommended. Talk to your doctor about your particular risk factors.