Having a vagina can be complicated, but never boring. There are many changes over the course of a menstrual cycle, meaning that discharge color and texture, smell, and even libido can vary greatly from one week to the next. With so many regular bodily changes, how can you tell when it’s just a normal variation or a sign that you should call your gynecologist? There are certain signs and symptoms to look for that could indicate a need to put a call in to your doc.
In speaking with Leah Torres, an OB-GYN who specializes in reproductive health, I learned that people are generally very attuned to their bodies, so they’re really the best judges of whether or not something is wrong. She explains that if you notice something that’s different from the norm, it might be a sign that you should see your gyno. Some of those changes may be personal to you, but others are more general and can indicate some common (and not-so-common) issues that could use a professional opinion or diagnosis.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your gyno. A doctor is the best person to diagnose any issues, and to provide peace of mind in the case that it ends up being nothing at all.
1You’re Bleeding Profusely
If you have incredibly heavy bleeding during your period, and are changing tampons or pads every hour, that’s a sign that something might be wrong. Give your doctor a call and have it checked out.
2You Have Vaginal Itching
Changes in discharge or itching can be signs of an infection, like a yeast infection, says Torres. And while you can treat yeast infections over the counter, if you have concerns, it doesn’t hurt to have your doctor take a look, either.
3You Notice An Odor You’re Not Accustomed To
Torres says that, along with changes in discharge, an odor that’s different than what you’re used to may indicate an infection, like bacterial vaginosis. While it’s not sexually transmitted, “it should be treated for comfort and hygiene’s sake,” she notes.
4Sex Is Painful
If sex is painful for you, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doc. Torres says that several things might be going on that aren’t necessarily physical, but talking about what aspects of intercourse are painful can help rule things like STIs out.
5You Notice A Lump In Your Breast
If you’re doing breast exams at home (and you should be), call your doctor if you find a lump or mass. Torres says that, while it’s most likely benign in younger women, you should have it evaluated anyway.
6It Burns When You Pee
Burning when you urinate could be a sign of a urinary tract infection, or an STI. Torres suggests making an appointment with your doctor if you notice painful urination, particularly if it’s accompanied by change in color or smell of discharge, and/or pain with intercourse.
7You Notice A Change From The Usual
Torres notes that it's usually the changes from what is usual for people that brings them in, which is a good thing. “I’m able to diagnose things because people are attuned to their body, and change indicates something might need to be treated," she said. So if you notice something that you’re not used to seeing, you might want to err on the side of caution and go get it checked out by your doc.