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When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, it can be hard to know what's "normal" and what may be a sign of a potential health problem. Even if you feel embarrassed about specific issues, your doctor and gynecologist have seen and heard it all. Health care providers are there to help you, not to pass judgment and your medical health history is always confidential.

Here are four things you should always discuss with your doctor.

Painful Periods

If your periods are extremely painful or continue to worsen over time, it can be a sign of endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Endometriosis is when tissue similar to inside your uterus grows outside your uterus (not where it belongs). This condition may result in intense pain, very heavy periods, and uncomfortable vaginal sex. More than 5 million people are affected by endometriosis in the U.S. There's no cure, but treatments are available for symptoms such as specific birth control methods, medicine, or surgery. You do not have to suffer in silence. If you experience painful periods or heavy bleeding, make an appointment and talk with a doctor about what is and is not a normal menstrual cycle.

Uterine Fibroids may also be a common cause of painful periods and heavy bleeding. Uterine fibroids grow on the uterus and may also create problems with fertility or pregnancy. Different types of treatment and medicines can help manage your uterine fibroids. Though symptoms are not always present, some may include:

  • Longer or heavier periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful cramps
  • Anemia (from losing too much blood during your period)
  • Pain in your belly or lower back
  • Pain during sex
  • Feeling full in the lower part of your belly (called pelvic pressure)
  • Swelling in your uterus or belly
  • Peeing a lot or having a hard time peeing
  • Constipation or pain while pooping
  • Miscarriage
  • Problems during labor, like being more likely to have a cesarean section
  • Infertility (this is rare, and there are possible treatments)

Options Counseling

Having an unplanned and unexpected pregnancy can be stressful and overwhelming. Roughly half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives.

People who are pregnant have three options:

  1. Parenting — giving birth and raising the child.
  2. Abortion — taking medication or having a medical procedure that ends the pregnancy.
  3. Adoption — giving birth and permanently placing the child with another person or family to raise.

Deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy can come easy for some and complicated for others. That's why Planned Parenthood offers options counseling. Options counseling helps patients make the best decisions for themselves. During options counseling, a trusted health care provider will meet with a patient and provide accurate, nonjudgmental information about all of the different options, including parenting, adoption, and abortion.

If a patient decides that parenting or making an adoption plan is the best choice for them, they will receive a referral to get into prenatal care as soon as possible and run some basic tests to ensure that the pregnancy is healthy.

Suppose a patient decides they'd like to end their pregnancy by having an abortion. In that case, a provider will discuss the different abortion options with them, help the patient decide, and schedule them accordingly.

"No matter what a patient decides to do about their unintended pregnancy, Planned Parenthood is here to provide support, compassion, and accurate information so patients can make the best decision for themselves," says Dr. Shannon Connolly, Associate Medical Director, PPOSBC.

Your decision is deeply personal, and everyone's pregnancy is different. The choice is yours.

Swelling, Bumps, or Growths "Down There"

If a bump develops around your penis, anus, vagina, labia, and butt cheeks, don't panic.

There are several reasons there may be a bump in your genital area. It is common, and they happen to everyone at one point or another. A lump may go away on its own, but if you are uneasy or the bump, rash, or growth persists, it is wise to discuss them with a doctor or nurse. They can help ease your mind and assess if treatment is necessary.

Ingrown hairs, allergies, skin irritation, pimples, and cysts are typical and affect people daily. They will generally go away on their own, but there are treatments available if needed. You should never try to pop, drain, or treat these issues on your own because it can lead to a severe infection.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs, or sometimes referred to as STDs) can also be a reason for bumps and genital discomfort. A few STIs that may result in bumps or rashes include genital herpes, genital warts, scabies, and molluscum contagiosum. An important reminder, STIs do not always have symptoms, so the only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.

Always book an appointment at a Health Center if you suspect the reaction your body is having may be from an STI. If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections can cause serious health issues. Individuals exposed or experiencing symptoms should wear a condom or dental dam or refrain from sexual activity until treated and cleared by a doctor. Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties can help diagnose and treat your genital skin issue, no matter what it is, without shame or judgment.

A person's sexual history is a part of their sexual health. Everyone should feel comfortable discussing facts with their doctor to help create an accurate health plan. The more a healthcare provider knows, the more accurately they can determine the steps to ensure a person stays healthy and is empowered with the adequate knowledge to stay safe.

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunctions or sexual disorders can negatively affect a person's sex life. If a person is having issues with sex or the enjoyment of sex, and it bothers them, it is important to discuss those concerns with a doctor.

Intercourse and intimacy can be an essential part of your health, so dealing with sexual dysfunction can be physically and emotionally challenging. Sexual disorders are common, and there are treatments available. Sexual dysfunctions can include Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Erectile Dysfunction (ED), Orgasm Disorder, Vulvodynia, Genital Arousal Disorder, and Premature Ejaculation.

There is not a sole cause for sexual dysfunction, and often it can be a combination of factors that affect a person's sex life. The most common reasons for sexual dysfunction are:

  • stress
  • fear and anxiety about sex
  • alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
  • hormone levels
  • mental health issues (like depression)
  • sexual assault or trauma in your past
  • problems in your relationship
  • certain medicines and treatments
  • menopause
  • recent pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding
  • medical issues like cancer, diabetes, heart problems, multiple sclerosis, or bladder problems

When see you doctor, they may ask you questions about your medical history. They'll give you an exam and ask you questions about your symptoms to help you figure out what's causing your issue and find the proper treatment. If you feel a little awkward talking to a doctor about your sex life, don't worry — that's normal. Try to be open and honest with your doctor about what's going on, so they can help you get the best treatment for you.

Receive Non-Judgmental Care

Everyone deserves quality, compassionate, and accessible health care without judgment. There is no topic or question you should ever hesitate to discuss with your doctor regarding your health. Take control of your health and schedule your Annual Wellness Visit at your local Planned Parenthood today. Call (714) 922-4100 to make an appointment.