Whether it’s because lying there pants off, legs splayed isn’t the most communication-friendly pose, or because chatting about what’s causing a low sex drive or why your vagina is itchy isn’t exactly, well, small talk, bringing up stuff with your gynecologist can be downright nerve-wracking. But trust us (and them), it’s highly likely that whatever you’re going to bring up is nothing new or even embarrassing—when it comes to vaginas, breasts, labor, weird odors, sex toys, and intimacy, gynecologists really have seen and heard some pretty interesting things.
Surprise in a patient’s bag
I had a postmenopausal widow who came in complaining of pain during intercourse after becoming newly sexually active following several years without activity. Her new boyfriend had had prostate surgery and was impotent but, as my patient put it, “he’s got this thing he is using and it hurts.” She then proceeded to open a paper grocery bag and pull out a 12-inch strap-on. After I collected myself, I told her I thought I saw what the problem was and recommended a smaller size.
–Carolyn C. Thompson, MD, Thompson Gynecology, Nashville, TN
DIY treatment gone wrong
A patient came in complaining of severe vaginal burning and odor. Turned out she had tried to treat a mild yeast infection by inserting raw garlic cloves in her vagina—considered a home remedy for a yeast infection (but there is no evidence that it actually works)—and then forgot about it! We took the 3-day-old smelly garlic cloves out and she was cured.
–Anna M. Barbieri, MD, assistant clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Out-of-the-ordinary pain management
One time a pregnant patient of mine showed up to labor and delivery with her acupuncturist. She respectfully requested that I allow needles to be placed on her body to help with the pain of labor. I had never seen or heard anything like this before but went along anyway. The acupuncturist inserted about 20 needles all over, and it was a little scary to look at. However, she proceeded to have one of the most comfortable and calm deliveries that I had ever witnessed. When it came time to deliver the placenta, I was again asked if needles could be placed. By that point, I was a believer!
–Tara Allmen, MD, ob-gyn in New York City