Gynaecologist answers questions on painful sex, vaginas, female hormones and tests 

Everything you have ever wanted to know but been too embarrassed to ask

In a country where the conversation around female hormones and female sexual health is still in its nascent stages, your primary source of information about your body mustn’t be derived from late-night Google searches or unverified hearsay passed on from friends. The ideal age for your first gynecologist visit may vary—the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends booking your first appointment between the ages of 13 and 15—but as you grow older and sexually active, you will want to maintain a steady relationship with a gynaec with whom you feel comfortable sharing intimate details. Ahead, celebrity cosmetic gynaecologist Dr. Yuvraj Jadeja details the important questions to ask at your next appointment:

How can I make my periods regular?

It is important to know that periods are not like calendars—women often have a misconception that periods should start like clockwork on the 28th day, but the truth is that the normal is anywhere between 21-35 days. There is no magical solution to regulate periods the natural way beyond maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of the food you eat, dialling back processed foods and refined sugar, exercising regularly, maintaining your ideal BMI and BMR, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and reducing stress. Periods are a manifestation of the hormonal cycle in your body, so irregular periods can signify some form of hormonal imbalance in your body.

What is the best way to clean the vagina?

The best way to clean your vagina is to leave it alone without tampering with its natural pH balance; patients often come in with vaginal infections from using intimate washes regularly. Everyone needs to know that the vagina is a self-cleansing organ that cleans itself with white discharge. It also has a natural defence mechanism consisting of millions of normal flora which are disturbed by intimate washes, opening the door to infections. The only reason to clean your vagina or to put anything on your vagina is if it has been prescribed by a gynaecologist after a thorough check-up.

What are the important tests I should be doing, and how often?

It is important to conduct a hormonal panel that includes thyroid profile, prolactin profile, and vitamins B12 and B3. A transvaginal ultrasound test is recommended to check your ovaries and uterus for those in their fertile period—an anti-mullerian hormone test can also help you understand your fertility potential if you are interested. However, the non-negotiable tests are a pap smear, HPV examination, and breast examination, which can be conducted as a self-test at home or as mammography.

What are the important vaccines I should know about?

Anybody within the age group of 9-45 years must discuss vaccinations. However, as a sexually active person, you need to be informed about the essential ones you need to protect yourself. This is especially important in a country like India, where the vaccination rate for HPV and hepatitis is dismal.

Is it normal to have pain during sexual intercourse?

The first course of action, even before involving a medical practitioner, is to communicate to your partner what hurts and what doesn’t. Foreplay is also helpful for reducing pain as it lubricates the vagina naturally—if you do require artificial lubricants, you will want to opt for water-based, non-spermicidal formula if you are trying for pregnancy. If you still have pain during sexual intercourse it could be dyspareunia or a pathological condition that needs ultrasound and treatment. If you are suddenly having painful intercourse, it is always advisable to visit a gynaecologist.