What a Gynecologist Tells Her Friends

Ob/gyn Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., doesn't pull any punches when talking to her BFFs about the sex, vaginas, and the intimate stuff. Care to listen in on her tips? It's a good thing we're all adults around here. By Sunny Sea Gold, REDBOOK.

No Brazilians before your appointment, please!
"It's natural to want to be well-groomed when you know someone is going to be looking closely at your private parts. But doctors truly don't care. The additional bit of truth I spill to friends is that I've seen too many red, swollen situations where the patient obviously went out and got a Brazilian right before coming to see me. That makes it tougher to do a thorough and accurate exam, because it's hard to know if something is actually wrong-like an inflammation or infection, for example-or if the woman is simply swollen from the trauma of waxing. So I assure my friends that it's better to be your natural self than freshly waxed before a gynecologist appointment."

Your weight could be ruining your sex life
"You have to be very gentle when talking to patients about weight, but I found myself leveling with a family member recently. She had put on about 50 pounds, and admitted to me that she hated the way she looked and didn't want her husband to see her naked anymore. Then later she was talking about how she had lost her libido and it must be her hormones! I told her that testosterone wasn't going to fix what was going on with her, but that losing weight could. She got mad at first-it wasn't easy to hear, and she thought I was being mean. But then we really started talking about it and she realized her feelings about her body were the culprit. She decided to lose weight, and went about it in a really smart and gradual way. It took about a year, but she did it. And her libido came right back."

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Your chances of a natural pregnancy after 42 are basically zilch

"I've had to discuss the realities of fertility with a couple of women I care about who are in their 40s. One had just gotten married and told me that she and her husband had tossed the condoms and she couldn't wait to get pregnant. I had to break the news that her chances were actually really low. She didn't want to believe me and said, 'My Aunt Whoever got pregnant when she was 50!' Sure, once in a great while something like that happens, but the odds are tiny. By the time you're in your early 40s, the quality of your eggs has declined to the point that even if one does get fertilized, it most likely won't divide and implant normally. It's tough-when you look at the media, you see a lot of older stars getting pregnant and having babies. But we doctors know that most of the time, that's thanks to egg donation, not spontaneous natural conception. Women assume that if they're still having their period every month that means they're fertile, but it doesn't."

Yogurt can be great medicine-down there
"You've probably heard that eating yogurt can be helpful in warding off yeast infections because of the good bacteria it contains. Well, I've advised a few friends-and patients I know very well-to try it in another way, too. If a woman who's had a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis before starts to feel like it's returning, inserting organic, unflavored yogurt with live cultures into the vagina can help balance things out. I tell women to use about a quarter cup before bed, and to be sure to wear a panty liner the next day because there will be some discharge. Some people are too squeamish for it, but in my experience, it works. And if it doesn't, of course you should head to the doctor."

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"No pain, no gain" doesn't apply to childbirth

"I absolutely believe in every woman's right to have the type of birth she wants, and I support patients who have natural, medication-free birth plans. But I give my personal opinion to friends when they ask: Get the epidural. It's safe, and there's no badge of honor for going without it."

Go commando anytime you can
"I know women who are never out of their undies-the only time they're pantiless is in the shower! But when you wear underwear 100 percent of the time, you're trapping moisture and body heat that can increase the growth of bacteria on the skin of the vulva. If you notice a not-fresh smell, usually the odor isn't coming from the vagina, it's coming from bacteria that grow after your vulva has been sitting inside of underwear for hours and hours. It's even worse in the winter, when people wear tights or nylons and then jeans on top of that. Obviously you don't want to have a Paris Hilton moment at work, so wear underwear during the day, but as soon as you get home, the panties should come off. And no woman ever needs to wear them to bed."

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Every woman should own a vibrator… or two

"I tell all my friends that sex toys should be a part of their repertoire in bed. As you age and your estrogen level starts to go down, your clitoris becomes less sensitive-and this can start as early as age 35. One way of increasing your pleasure when this starts to happen is to use a vibrator. There's no need to have at it alone with the door closed and the curtains down; get your partner involved."

Ditch tampons to soothe cramps
"There's not much scientific evidence for this, but anecdotally and in my own personal experience, using tampons can make period cramps feel worse, by delaying the emptying of the uterus. Yes, wearing a pad during the day can be awkward, and if you don't want to deal with that, just switch to pads once you get home from work or at night. Another thing I always did was drink red raspberry leaf tea-it's a traditional herbal remedy used to relax the muscles of the uterus, and it made a difference for me."

Don't blame him if you're not having orgasms

"When my girlfriends complain about not having orgasms, there's a tendency to blame it on their partners. What I usually say to them is this: It's up to you to make it happen-climaxing is a learned experience. That means you have to feel comfortable with your own body and know what you like and how you like it in order to help someone else figure it out. If your boyfriend or husband doesn't have a clue, you've got to figure your body out first, and then teach him and guide him."

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