No one particularly loves going to the OB-GYN. Depending on your own comfort level, it can feel awkward at best and terrifying at worst. That said, regular visits to your OB-GYN are an absolute necessity. While becoming buddy buddy with your doc may not be your first priority, there are a few things you can do to make your appointments (and your doctor-patient relationship) go as smoothly as possible – like avoiding these things that can frustrate your OB-GYN.
It's completely normal to feel nervous at your appointment. After all, it's not everyday that we get spread eagle in some stirrups and discuss the most intimate details of our sex lives. However, it's crucial to remember that OB-GYNs are solely here to help. "The vast majority of individuals go into our specialty because we feel like it's a calling. We've gone through many years of training and spent many nights away from our families so that we can be there for you when you need us," Dr. Erin Duncan Topel, OB-GYN, tells Romper. "Please trust that we have your best interest in heart and that we are here to help and not judge." By viewing your doctor as an ally and invaluable resource, you can avoid some of these habits altogether.
1. Apologizing for not being perfectly groomed.
Or, you know, not being groomed at all. If you're usually a perfectionist with maintaining your pubic hair, it's not surprising why you might feel like you owe some sort of explanation or apology to the person who is about to be up close and personal with the situation... but it's completely unnecessary. After all, pubic hair is 100 percent natural and nothing to feel ashamed about. "For my GYN patients, I frequently hear them apologizing for not grooming," Dr. Topel tells Romper. "I don't care! I promise!"
2. Refusing recommended vaccines.
Obviously, vaccines are a hot-button issue. Thanks to the Internet, everyone and their mother suddenly has the medical education of an MD (or so they think). For Dr. Topel, it's hard to watch pregnant patients refuse vaccines – specifically the flu and TDAP vaccines – that can be so beneficial to both them and their unborn babies.
"The benefit and safety of the [flu] vaccine has been documented over and over (and over!) and is recommended by the CDC, United States Preventative Services Task Force, as well as the governing bodies of all major medical associations for all Americans to be vaccinated every year, with a special focus on people with compromised immune systems, which includes pregnant women and newborns," Dr. Topel tells Romper. "By getting the flu vaccine, they can not only prevent potentially life threatening illnesses for themselves, but also for their babies, who cannot get the flu vaccine themselves until they are six months old."
Additionally, OB-GYNs recommend the TDAP vaccine, which prevents pertussis, for all women in their third trimester. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can be fatal for newborn babies. "Their children cannot get the whooping cough vaccine until they are eight weeks old, but by getting the vaccine during pregnancy, pregnant women can pass immunity through the placenta to protect infants until it is safe for them to get the vaccine themselves," Dr. Topel explains to Romper. She recommends any women with concerns about vaccinations during pregnancy do their research using reputable sources, like the CDC.
3. Using a ton of products down under.
You're a clean freak and you like to keep everything smelling and feeling fresh. That's good! However, when it comes to your vagina, less is usually more. Our vaginas are self-cleaning, and can do their job without any special help from washes, douches, and sprays.
Dr. Lauren Streicher, an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, spoke to SELF about the use of these feminine products. "There’s a lot of misconception about how to clean one’s genitals,” Dr. Streicher said. “But don’t use special scrubs or washes—they can be irritating. Mild soap and water are really all you need.”
4. Self-diagnosing (and self-treating).
This is a behavior that frustrates doctors across the board. For many of us, the first thing we do when we experience uncomfortable or even alarming symptoms is to consult Dr. Google. Of course, this can wind up causing bigger problems.
For example... many women will rush to buy over-the-counter yeast infection remedies if they experience the telltale symptoms, but it's not always that simple. "Many women think itching and burning in the vaginal area only signals a yeast infection, but this is not true. These symptoms are indicative of a variety of conditions, including genital herpes," stated Dr. Patricia Sulak, OB-GYN and professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, in a Science Daily article. "Any woman who experiences discomfort and abnormal symptoms in the vaginal area should always consult her health care provider."
5. Not being honest about sexual behaviors.
Stories of sexcapades are usually reserved for brunch with girlfriends, but it's imperative to be honest with your OB-GYN about your sexual activity. "I want all my patients to have fulfilling physical and emotional lives, which includes sex in women who desire sexual intimacy," Dr. Topel tells Romper. "I promise no detail that you share with me will surprise me, and nothing you tell me will be shared with anyone else – unless I fear for your safety, in which case I would tell you before notifying other individuals who may be able to help." Ditch your fear of judgment at the door, because your doctor has heard everything before.
Additionally, being completely truthful about your sex life will allow you and your healthcare provider to discuss contraception and find a method that works best for you. "One of my goals for my patients is that they get pregnant only when they want to be pregnant," Dr. Topel explains to Romper. "We have so many types of contraception out there that I truly believe there is a viable option for every woman. Sometimes it takes some trial and error, but once again that goes back to having open communication with your provider."
6. Skipping routine appointments.
If everything feels OK and you've got a busy schedule, routine OB-GYN appointments can fall by the wayside. However, "Annual assessments provide an excellent opportunity to counsel patients about preventive care and to provide or refer for recommended services," advises The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Additionally, routine pelvic examinations and pap smears can save lives.
Luckily, you might not actually need these tests quite as often as you think. For example, the general pap testing recommendation for women ages 21 to 39 years is every three years. Annual STD testing is recommended for women with certain risk factors, including multiple partners or a new partner. You can find all of ACOG's recommendations based on age and risk factors on their website.
7. Canceling your appointment because you got your period.
You may think you're doing your doctor a big favor by canceling or rescheduling your appointment if Aunt Flo is in town, but this can actually be an annoyance. "It can never hurt to call the nurse and say, 'I'm on my period, is it okay if I come in?'" Dr. Serena Chen, the director for reproductive medicine at Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas, told Seventeen. "I always like people to come anyway, because it's hard to get people scheduled."
OB-GYNs are professionals who show up every day to do their job. They have your best interests at heart, and are not interested in judging or shaming you for your appearance or decisions. While it may never be a totally stress-free experience for you, getting rid of these habits will only make things easier.