Can your doctor tell when you last had sex?
She might be able to if it was the last thing you did before leaving home, says Lauren Streicher, MD
, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. The evidence may remain inside you for 12 hours. This presents a bit of a challenge, says Streicher, because ejaculatory fluid—as well as spermicide, lubricants and creams—alter the vaginal flora (we love that phrase) in ways that can make it difficult for your doctor to accurately read your test results. If you're getting a Pap smear, give your doctor a heads-up about your very recent tryst so that she knows what she's dealing with. If the reason for your visit has to do with abnormal discharge or odor, abstain from sex for about 12 hours, or consider rescheduling. But good news if you're feeling self-conscious about a monthslong dry spell: Your doctor won't be able to tell unless you decide to tell her, says Streicher.
Can you be too clean before a Pap smear or exam?
As a matter of fact, you can. Soaping or scrubbing inside your vagina or even wiping too enthusiastically can remove or obscure the cervical cells that your doc needs to screen, says Streicher (so does douching, but surely you guessed that). And if you're hoping to talk to your doctor about discharge or odor, then Streicher says covering up your symptoms makes it harder for her to treat you. It can even make the problem worse, as in the case of one of Streicher's patients who used a towelette she found in the exam room for a last-minute cleanup, and then suffered burning pain caused by the high alcohol content. Streicher swears that no ob-gyn worth her speculum would judge her patients based on their condition or make them feel bad for it—and besides, they've probably seen your issue (and worse) before.
Can a woman be allergic to sex?
Vaginal itching or swelling (or wheezing or hives) after sex is commonly due to a reaction to latex (in condoms), lubricants or spermicides. However, a small number of women develop an allergy to the proteins in semen, says Lissa Rankin, MD
, author of What's Up Down There?: Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend
. Before you give up on condoms or on sex in general, make a date with an allergist to discover what's causing your symptoms.
Next: Does your cup size increase your chances of breast cancer?