So, we asked Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an OBGyn at the Yale School of Medicine, to tell us the most important questions a patient can ask, and then we got the answers. The next time you're at the gyno, you can just concentrate on taking those deep breaths while the speculum goes in, rather than trying to formulate the perfect question.
How often to do I need to see my OBGyn?
While this is one of the most basic questions one can ask, it's also one of the most important. Dr. Minkin says, "Even if you’re not getting a Pap smear, you want to be seeing your healthcare provider at least once a year."
How can I have a safe hookup?
We've all experienced that never-ending conflict between spontaneity and safety, which Dr. Minkin says can be mediated with safe sex supplies like condoms and dental dams. She notes, "The 'prime time' for STDs is in your 20s, which can affect your fertility." So, your frontal lobe might not be done developing, but it's important to try to keep consequences in mind anyway. Random hookups, when not done safely, can have life-long consequences.
How close to having children should I quit smoking?
While we're familiar with the fact that smoking while pregnant is a big NO if you care at all about the health of your future kid, some smokers will stop smoking just for the duration of the pregnancy — but is that okay? Dr. Minkin says no. "You want to be concerned about your future fertility when smoking. Smoking lowers your rate of menopause about one or two years, which limits your fertility."
What vitamins should I take on a daily basis?
It's important to know what vitamins are important from a medical standpoint, not just from a superfood standpoint. Dr. Minkin encourages women to be on Vitamin D, and says, "All women need to take care of their bones. If you’re thinking of having a kid, take 400 mcg of folic acid daily."
Do I need to have my period every month?
While our monthly periods are excellent ways to be in touch with our overall health, if you've ever suffered from cramps, spacing out periods can be very appealing. Dr. Minkin gives us the green light: "If you want to space out your cycle, this will not harm your fertility later on."
Should I be concerned about blood clots while taking the pill?
This is a one of those health problems that gets a lot of buzz, and it can be hard to separate the panic from the actual risk. But, Dr. Minkin says we don't have to worry. "The risk of blood clots from taking birth control pills is extremely low." Talk with your doctor to assess your own risk.
Why does the number of partners I’ve had matter?
Our partners, or lack thereof, often feels like a private matter, and may be one of the last things we want to dish to our doctors about, lest they judge us. But, Dr. Minkin says, "The more partners you have, the more chances you have to acquire a sexually transmitted disease. Unprotected sex could wreak havoc on your fertility." In other words, it's not about judging you — it's about knowing more about your sexual health.
Will abortion affect my health?
This question is associated with a long history of anti-abortion politics. In fact, saying that having an abortion will affect fertility is a claim that the anti-choice movement leans heavily upon. However, it's a false assertion. Dr. Minkin says, "Abortion will not affect your future fertility or impact your health."
When should I start to be concerned about my fertility?
We often hear about women worrying about being able to have babies once they hit a certain age, but what that age is seems to vary. Says Dr. Minkin, "Women in their 30s should begin more actively considering their fertility. Women under 35 who have been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months, or women older than 35 who have been trying to get pregnant for six months, should also consult a physician."
I want to have a baby. How can I identify my most fertile days of the month?
Not everyone has the luxury of simply having nonstop unprotected intercourse once the decision to reproduce is made. It's important to be in touch with your cycle and know which days your body is the most fertile. Dr. Minkin recommends using an at-home technology such as the First Response Fertility tests, which can gauge fertility potential.
Photo: Corepics/Spaces Images/Corbis.