It's your annual ob-gyn exam, and you're sitting on the cold metal table in a paper hospital gown. Your doctor comes in the room, and as you scoot down and brace for her speculum, you start to wonder—is she noticing my unshaven bikini line? Will she shame me if I tell her I hook up a lot?
No need to fear. “I don't judge,” Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, tells Health. During a checkup, “I mostly just want you to tell me what’s going on so I can help you,” she explains. That said, she and her fellow gynos do have some specific thoughts on their minds during your visit—and they want you to know what they are. Here's what three ob-gyns tell us they’re really thinking when your feet are in the stirrups.
"It doesn't matter to me whether you're waxed or groomed"
If you’ve ever worried that your gyno is silently critiquing your wax job or all the hair your razor missed down below, here's the truth: She sees dozens of patients a day, and she really doesn’t have the time to even notice whether you wax it all or keep your bush wild. Nor does she pay attention to other grooming issues, like how long it's been since your last pedicure.
“I can’t tell you how many women have apologized to me for not having their toenails done or their wax done,” Alyssa Dweck, MD, a New York–based ob-gyn and coauthor of The Complete A to Z for Your V, tells us. “They are absolutely mortified because they think I'm actually noticing those things, which I’m not.”
"I’m not grossed out that you have your period—at all"
If your gyno appointment happens to fall during that time of the month, don’t cancel it. “Some women think it’s horrible to come in when they have their period,” says Dr. Greves. “Absolutely not.”
Katharine White, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine, agrees. “I wouldn't have become an ob-gyn if I was at all icked out by menstrual blood, and it actually serves as a lubricant and can make the exam easier!” she tells Health.
If you don’t want to see your doctor because you’re bleeding more than usual, that’s even more of a reason to keep your appointment. “If [a patient] is having a super heavy period or experiencing abnormal bleeding, then I definitely want to see her to make sure everything is okay,” adds Dr. Greves.
"Your sex life isn’t a taboo topic with me"
“I am thrilled when patients bring things up that they are concerned about regarding sexual health,” says Dr. Dweck. “The most common issues are painful sex, bleeding after sex, or just not having a desire for sex.” In fact, she thinks these types of challenges are so important, she'll broach the subject when patients don’t.
“I usually ask patients if they are having any problems with sex just in case they feel embarrassed to bring it up,” says Dr. Dweck. “It normalizes it and makes women feel like they aren’t the first people to ever bring it up with me.”
"Um, yes, you can get pregnant and contract an STI"
Even though gynos don't get judgy, they can be surprised by how many patients having unprotected sex don't realize that they are at risk of contracting an STI or conceiving a baby.
“The biggest thing I say to myself is, Oh my God, I can’t believe this person thinks they can have unprotected sex, menstruate regularly, and not get pregnant,” says Dr. Dweck. “In the same vein, I also think, How can this person have unprotected sex with more than one partner and not think they will get an STD? You’d be shocked at how many women just don’t think it will happen to them.”
"Your birth plan may need a backup plan"
Developing a birth plan, which covers your preferences and expectations from your doctors and hospital staff as you go into labor, is a smart idea. But some new moms can have a host of demands, and then Mother Nature throws a curveball. Dr. Greves says she does everything in her power to make sure childbirth goes according to plan for patients—but sometimes a last-minute tweak is necessary. Moms-to-be need to be flexible in case something arises.
Dr. White shares similar thoughts. “I encourage women to think about the things that are important to them for their labor and birth experience, including who they want in the room and how they want things to go,” she explains. “But I also remind women that the most important things are that she and the baby are healthy at the end of it. So I counsel them to be prepared for things to not go according to plan, either because they change their mind and want that epidural after all, or because something medical changes during labor that makes elements of their plan unsafe to follow.”