Questions you might be too embarrassed to ask your gynecologist

From dispelling myths about pap smears to understanding vaginal hygiene, we sat down with OB-GYN, Dr. Nicole Sparks, to ask all the burning questions you had but might be too embarrassed to ask your gyno!

Video Transcript

NADYA OKAMOTO: Hello, and welcome to Hack The Cycle. I'm your host Nadya Okamoto. And I'm the co-founder of August, a lifestyle period brand.

As I'm sure you've gathered by now, I have a lot of questions. But for this episode, we're on the streets of New York City. And I'm going to ask locals what their burning questions are for an OB-GYN.

No topic is off limits. And as they say, the only bad question is the ones not asked. So let's go meet some people.

NICOLE SPARKS: Hi, Nadya. I'm Dr. Sparks. I'm a board certified OB-GYN. I cannot wait to answer everyone's questions today.

NADYA OKAMOTO: If you could ask an OB-GYN any question, what would it be?

- What is an OB-GYN?

NADYA OKAMOTO: Great question. What is an OB-GYN?

NICOLE SPARKS: So an OB-GYN stands for Obstetrician and Gynecologist. So the OB part means that we deliver babies. We get to bring beautiful babies into the world. And the gynecologist part is that we deal with everything with the reproductive system. So your vulva, your vagina, your ovaries, your uterus.

- I'm wondering how often I should get a pap smear.

NADYA OKAMOTO: Have you ever gotten one before?

- No, I haven't.

NADYA OKAMOTO: It's a memorable experience.

- I'm sure.

NADYA OKAMOTO: OB-GYN, over to you.

NICOLE SPARKS: So we do pap smear so we can actually test for cervical cancer or for precancerous cells. What most OB-GYN's will tell you is that we recommend a pap smear every three years starting at the age of 21. So a lot of people think they need pap smears as soon as they're sexually active but that's not actually true.

Every three years that the pap smears by itself and every five years, if we add on a test called HPV. That's the human papillomavirus. So the quick answer is no. You can still come on your period.

I tell people if you personally feel uncomfortable and you're having really bad cramps and really heavy bleeding and you just don't feel comfortable coming, then go ahead and reschedule. But you don't have to reschedule on our part. We can still perform the pap smear.

- What are some like myths about pap smears?

NADYA OKAMOTO: Have you gotten a pap smear before?

- I have.

NADYA OKAMOTO: And what did you think of it?

- It was a little scary.


- It was scary. I think they check for ovarian cancer. Is that what it is? No?

NADYA OKAMOTO: I think they check for a multitude of things. Have they tugged on your ovaries before?

- I don't think so.

NADYA OKAMOTO: No? That came in my latest pap smear. They stick their finger up. And they literally check on your ovaries on where they are. It's a lot. It's a lot. But--

NICOLE SPARKS: So I know pap smears scare everybody. But a lot of the times I will use the plastic speculum, which I think patients, I shouldn't say enjoy, but they tolerate a little bit more. And to you, Nadya, we don't actually tug on the ovaries during the exam. Although, that's probably what it felt like. But we do something called a bimanual exam where we actually place one hand in the vagina on one hand on the abdomen or pelvis. And we basically try to feel if we feel any masses or anything that feels abnormal. So if you have a really big cyst or fibroids or anything that's going on, we can actually feel it when we do this exam.

So I love to tell people that the vagina is a self-cleaning oven. It does not need your help. It does not require any extra assistance.

So all you really need to clean the vagina is water. That's it. Just water.

- I'm very curious about why there's a weight limit with the morning after pill? That's what I would want to know.

NADYA OKAMOTO: I did not know there was a weight limit.

- Yeah.

NADYA OKAMOTO: Why is there a weight limit to the morning after pill?

NICOLE SPARKS: Thank you, Nadya. That is a really great question. So to clarify, there isn't a weight limit. However, when they've done studies in the past, they did notice that plan B was a little bit less effective if people were over a certain weight.

So and the more increase in weight, the less effective we know that it is. However, that does not mean that it's not effective. The best thing that you can do is take the pill as soon as you need to take it, meaning we give you a recommendation of three days. But the sooner you take it, the better it actually is. That's the number one thing you can do.

One of the most common questions I get is what is a UTI? So a UTI is a urinary tract infection. The reason why it's so common in women is because our urethra is really close to the anus. The best way to prevent this make sure that you keep the area around the vagina nice and clean. Make sure that you wipe front to back. Make sure that there's no way that any bacteria can enter into your vagina and your urethra.

NADYA OKAMOTO: And I hope that this episode encourages and inspires you to ask any burning question you have to your OB-GYN at your next appointment. And just remember, if you ever have lingering questions, don't be afraid to ask or even ask for a second opinion.