When you’re lying on your gyno‘s examination table, it can be hard to stop your mind from racing with self-conscious thoughts, from “Why didn’t I get my bikini waxed before coming here?” to “Why am I sweating so much?” and “Do I smell?”
But chances are, while you’re stuck in those stirrups stressing out, your doctor isn’t giving it a second thought.
Here are seven things gynecologists say are totally NBD when you come in for an exam:
1. You didn’t shave your legs—and you’re overdue for a bikini wax.
You may feel self-conscious if you’ve got a hairy situation going on, but your gyno truly doesn’t care and may not even notice. “Patients always mention that they haven’t shaved,” says Leena Nathan, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist at UCLA Health-Westlake Village. “I don’t notice. I’m more interested in the health of the patient. They should not have to worry about mentioning that they haven’t shaved or waxed.”
2. You’re on your period during the exam.
When you book your gyno appointment months in advance, you can’t necessarily control whether your period will land on the same day. If—lucky you!—your period and your check-up coincide, don’t sweat it. “If you can’t go to your gynecologist on your period, then who can you go to?” says Nathan. “We’re used to bleeding.” Just be aware that in some cases, having a Pap smear during your period may make it harder to get a clear test result, but that doesn’t mean you should skip your appointment. “If you’re having a Pap smear on your period, I’ll try to swipe away the blood and do the Pap,” says Nathan. “If it comes back inconclusive, you may have to come back. But rarely would we advise patients to cancel their appointment just for that reason.”
3. You may not smell as fresh as a daisy down there.
As you scoot down on the examination table with your legs in stirrups, it’s hard not to wonder and worry about what you smell like, especially if you’ve started to sweat because you’re nervous. “Women are obsessed with how much they’re perspiring when they’re in my office, thinking, ‘Does it smell down there?’” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of V is For Vagina. “I appreciate it if someone doesn’t come to the office straight out of a CrossFit class or having not showered in four days, but in general, I really don’t notice it much.”
4. You have (gasp) discharge.
“Women often think they should be completely dry except for before or during sexual relations,” says Dweck. “But many women have discharge—some have it more than others—and that’s completely normal.” In fact, on average women have up to a tablespoon’s worth of discharge on a daily basis, according to Leah Millheiser, M.D., director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford University Medical Center. That said, if your discharge is greenish or yellowish in color, frothy, and has a strong fishy odor or a cottage cheese-like consistency and is accompanied by itching, those are signs of an infection, which requires a doctor’s attention.
5. Your Pap smear comes back abnormal.
No one likes to get an abnormal test result, but if it’s with your Pap smear, in most cases it’s nothing to worry about. Abnormal Pap smears are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases—we’re talking 80 million people who currently have HPV in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s a slow-acting virus, and the chances of having cancer are very, very low,” says Dweck. That’s because in the majority of cases, your body’s immune system wipes out HPV, according to the American Cancer Society. But in rare cases, the virus can persist and develop into cervical cancer—all the more reason why you should never blow off getting screened for HPV, especially if you’ve had an abnormal Pap. “You have to come back for a follow-up Pap,” adds Nathan.
6. Your menstrual cycle has changed.
If your old reliable cycle has started to shift by a couple of days, you may worry that something is wrong, but period changes are more common than you’d think. “I have patients coming in all of the time saying, ‘I have always had a five-day period and now I have a three-day or a seven-day period,” says Millheiser. “Women really do freak out about it, but your period will change—what’s been normal will change.” Anything from stress to weight fluctuations to hormonal changes can trigger this. However, if your period becomes irregular or you’re skipping periods, get checked out by your gyno to rule out a possible health problem, such as PCOS, or perimenopause.
7. You’re sleeping with more than one person and are afraid to ‘fess up.
If you’re single and sexually active with multiple partners, are having an affair, or suspect your partner is having one, sharing that uber-personal information with your gyno can be, well, awkward. But keep in mind that your doctor isn’t there to judge you (and if she or he does, it’s time to find a new one). Your gyno needs to know that pertinent information so he or she can make sure you’re using the best methods to both prevent STDs and an unwanted pregnancy. “The number of sexual partners isn’t anything to be embarrassed about,” says Nathan. Adds Dweck: “It’s important to know that, in general, gynecologists—especially ones who have been in practice for a while—are there to do a job and not judge anything.”