It's not always easy to open up to your doctor - especially when you have a health concern that's particularly personal. Here are 13 questions so intimate that some women are afraid to ask their doctors - with answers from Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, the author of "What the Yuck?! The Freaky & Fabulous Truth about Your Body."
Expect some surprises!
My breasts are lumpy. How can I tell if I have a problem?
Lumpy (fibrocystic) breasts are common, and it can make it harder to spot breast cancer. To compensate, your doctor may advise you to undergo an ultrasound scan as well as mammography. What can you do? Get to know your breasts. Do self-exams right after your period (when breasts are likely to be less lumpy). Schedule annual screenings after age 40- earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. And do informal self-exams once a month so that if something new pops up, you'll know. But don't panic. Eighty percent of breasts lumps are benign.
Do certain sex positions tend to cause bladder infections?
Perhaps. Pressure on the urethra can occur more with the woman-on-top position, and rear entry can also transmit bacteria to the urethra. But more important than position is making sure to empty your bladder (urinate) before and after sex.
Why does my rectum itch at night?
Anal itching at bedtime could mean you're infected with pinworms, a common parasite that lives in the colon and wriggles out at night to lay its eggs on the skin around the anus. Fortunately, it sounds much worse than it is and is easily treated.
Why am I suddenly getting facial hair?
As women age, it's normal for them to get more facial hair. Often the new hair is darker and coarser than the fine hairs many women have when they're younger. But a sudden and dramatic change in your hair suggests you might have a hormonal imbalance - perhaps related to menopause. Other possible causes include some medicines (for example, steroids or oral contraceptives), polycystic ovarian syndrome, or, in rare cases, a hormone-secreting tumor.
How much breast sagging is normal?
As women age, the ligaments that hold up the breasts lose their elasticity. Plus, breast tissue becomes fattier, which leads to more sag. Weight gain or loss, pregnancy, and breast-feeding all contribute, too. When the breasts expand and then shrink, the skin doesn't snap back.
I keep getting yeast infections. Could my Spanx be to blame?
It's possible for body-shaping underwear to play a role in yeast infections. Yeast thrive in warm, damp places, and if your clothing is tight and made of non-breathable synthetic fabric, you're setting the stage for overgrowth. So save your slimmers for short-term use and special occasions, rather than using them as your go-to everyday garment.
Are chesty women more likely to get breast cancer?
Being well-endowed doesn't raise your risk of developing cancer. That said, being overweight does up your risk of breast cancer (along with other health problems). So if your curves are from excess weight, you're at a higher risk. Big boobs can make feeling lumps or detecting tumors more difficult, which is why it's important for women with larger breasts to visit their doctor annually (if not more often).
Why do I get a headache after sex?
Doctors call this a "coital headache," and it can occur as a result of the exertion involved in sexual activity. Or it could result from the dilation of blood vessels around your neck and brain that occurs during sex. Ask your doctor about taking an over-the-counter painkiller like ibuprofen or a prescription migraine drug 30 minutes before hitting the sheets.
Is it true that certain sex positions give you a girl or a boy?
It would be nice if women could use sex position to determine the baby's gender, but they can't. Countless studies have looked for a relationship between sex position and gender - and have come up empty. The same goes for methods of timing sex around specific days in your cycle.
Can laptops make guys infertile?
It's possible for laptops to cause male infertility - at least temporarily. A hot laptop on the lap can raise the temperature of a guy's scrotum, and high scrotal temperatures could kill sperm. That's why couples who are trying to conceive are often told that the man should avoid hot tubs and switch from briefs to boxers.
Can sitting on a public toilet seat give me a disease?
There are actually more germs on the floor of a public bathroom (hang up your purse!) than on the toilet seat. If the bathroom seems especially gross, cover the seat with toilet paper or a paper toilet seat cover from the dispenser. But don't worry too much. If you have a healthy immune system, you'll be able to resist whatever germs you're exposed to while on the john.
Is it true that underwire bras cause cancer?
Absolutely not. The theory that underwire bras cause cancer by blocking drainage of lymph has been discredited. Lots of studies have looked for a link between underwire bras and cancer and found nothing.
One of my breasts is bigger than the other. Is that ok?
Yes, as long as the size difference isn't something new. Most women have slight differences in the shape and size of their breasts. It's normal to have one breast larger than the other - sometimes by as much as two cup sizes. But if one breast has suddenly gotten bigger or feels different, consult a doctor. A one-sided change could be a sign of a cyst or even a tumor.