When it comes time for your annual exam with your gynecologist, how do you prepare?
Maybe you plan out what clothes you want to wear: “If I wear a dress, maybe I won’t have to wear that weird throwaway gown?” (You will most likely still have to wear a gown for sanitary reasons.) Maybe you consider what to do about your pubic hair. “Does my doctor care about my pubes? Am I supposed to trim them?” (You do whatever you feel best about! Your OB-GYN won’t care.) Maybe you plan to take a friend or a partner for emotional support.
But are you making a list of sex-related questions to ask your OB-GYN?
For a lot of people, the answer is no. Even though the doctor is there to make sure you and your genitals are healthy, many patients feel nervous bringing up sex. So, our questions often go unanswered.
“My patients are shocked that I’m willing and excited to talk with them about sex” Dr. Katie McHugh, an OB-GYN and pelvic pain specialist based in Indianapolis, tells O.school. “I think they should love having sex!”
To help you start the conversation, here are 5 questions you can ask at your next appointment. Of course, these aren’t the only questions you can ask your OB-GYN! Some of these may not apply to you, and you may have others you want to ask, which is awesome. These questions are just a sample of what you can bring to your OB-GYN, who can be a great resource.
As a quick disclaimer, anyone with a vagina (whether they were born with it or not) can see an OB-GYN for medical services. But, some of the studies we reference refer exclusively to cis-women. We know not all people with vaginas are women (and not all women have vaginas), but in those cases, we’re matching the language of the study.
1. “I have a lot of pain when I try to have sex, sometimes to the point where I can't do it. Is that normal?”
Pain during sex is incredibly common. In 2017, one British study found that 7.5 percent of women* reported pain during sex in the prior three months. Meanwhile, data from the U.S. suggests that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of US women experience pain during sex, and that number jumps up to nearly 50 percent for menopausal women. Pain during sex can be caused by a lot of different things, ranging from muscle spasms to issues from childbirth.
Dr. McHugh first reminds her patients that “It is not normal to have pain during sex (unless it is consensually agreed upon and intentional from the start [...] pain is not normal, but it is treatable and they should expect sex to be comfortable, pleasurable, and fun again. If this is my patient's question, we start from the beginning and talk about what is painful, when, and how the patient feels pain. I am a pelvic pain specialist and spend tons of time talking to patients about how to get back to a normal sexual life. Sex is a normal, natural part of life and women should expect to be able to fully participate!”
2. “Is squirting a thing, or am I peeing during sex?”
There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of worrying that you’ve just wet the bed while having an orgasm. Squirting — the sudden release of liquid during sex — is something some people aspire to do and others wish wouldn’t happen to them. While large-scale studies on squirting are nonexistent, there are smaller studies that have tried to find answers.
The short answer is that some people with vaginas may have orgasms strong enough that they cause the pelvic floor muscles to force the bladder to empty. Which means...pee, sort of. While the fluid that you squirt may contain pee (because it’s coming from where pee lives), science just isn’t totally sure yet what is going on here, because sex and pleasure are pretty under-researched.
But ultimately, Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN, and author of the book The Vagina Bible say that “If you have urine leakage and it bothers you, see a specialist. But if you’re having fun and aren’t bothered, then it doesn’t matter what fluid it is or where it’s coming from.”
3. “Is sex supposed to feel good to me? It doesn’t.”
Dr. Gunter says there are many reasons why people might not be enjoying sex, and overall, sexual satisfaction just isn’t that high across the board. But, for some people with vaginas, “pleasure roads lead to the clitoris, and if it’s being ignored in some way, sex just might not be as enjoyable as it could be.”
Plus, sex might not feel as good as you’d like because of high stress, potential nerve damage, lack of lubrication, endometriosis or vaginismus, or even internalized shame about sexual pleasure.
Dr. McHugh loves when her patients ask her this question as it gives her the opportunity to empower them. “Women are not generally given permission to enjoy sex, but they should expect and demand respect, enjoyment, intimacy, pleasure, and fun from their sexual experiences.”
4. “Is the G-spot real?”
Despite the hundreds — maybe even thousands — of articles that extol the virtues of the G-spot, the G-spot itself isn’t really a spot, it’s more of a zone. There’s an area 1 to 2 inches inside of the vagina, on the front wall, that many people with vaginas enjoy having stimulated. But it’s most likely not its own body part — that area is probably just accessing another part of the clitoris.
But, as Dr. McHugh puts it “that doesn’t really matter. Everyone likes something different, so people don't have to find that spot specifically to have great sex...and there's nothing wrong with a person who doesn't like that area to be stimulated.”
Ultimately, Dr. Gunter adds that “it’s best to do away with terms like vaginal orgasm and G-spot, because ultimately, the goal is orgasm, and it can happen in so many ways.”
5. “My partner wants to try anal. Should I?”
Anal play describes a wide variety of sexual behaviors, including analingus (oral sex performed on an anus), anal fingering, using toys, or penetrative play (and any combination of the above). People of any gender or sexuality might enjoy anal play, but the decision to do it is ultimately yours and yours alone. As Dr. Gunter says, “you should try anal if it appeals to you, not because your partner thinks everyone is doing it .”
When considering anal play, remember to start slow and use lube — you can check out our guide to your first time engaging in anal play here.
Talking to your OB-GYN about sex can feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier with practice! But if your doctor shames you for asking questions or for your sexual interests, work to find a new, more sex-positive doctor. Your sex life is a part of your health, and you deserve to discuss it without shame.