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Intimate Details: Your Sexual Health Guide

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Your Top 5 Sexual Health Concerns

Chances are, the sexual health concern you've been putting off talking to your doc about is a worry many women share. Here's what's topping the list right now:

Mystery Discharge

Doctors get more calls and visits about funky vaginal fluids than practically anything else. "Four or five patients come to my office every day just for this," says Amy Rosenman, MD, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA School of Medicine.

What You Need to Know
If it's gray or greenish and smells bad, you may have bacterial vaginosis or an STD; both can be treated with antibiotics. Thick, odorless, burning, and itchy? Could be a yeast infection. Three-day over-the-counter remedies may not pack enough punch, so try a five-day one instead, says Dr. Saint. Condition not improving? See your doc.

Human Papillomavirus

"A few years ago, almost none of my patients had heard of HPV," says Suzanne Trupin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "When the HPV vaccine came out in 2006, everyone started asking about it."

What You Need to Know
Between 11 and 27? Get the vaccine; it inoculates against HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts, says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University. Thirty or over? Get the new DNA test for HPV along with your next Pap to assess your risk for those strains.

Birth Control

More possibilities can mean more uncertainty. "Women are excited about the new choices that are available to them, but many patients have questions about the safety of some of the options, like no-period pills and vaginal rings," says Dr. Saint.

What You Need to Know
Pills that eliminate your menstrual periods are fine, say experts (you may have occasional breakthrough bleeding). Other options: The NuvaRing, a thin, flexible vaginally inserted hormone ring that you remove and replace monthly; and FC2, the new and improved female condom.

Herpes

"Genital herpes causes more angst than any other STD," says Dr. Rosenman. The reason? It has no cure and few symptoms, and up to one in four women has it.

What You Need to Know
If you have a history of STDs or more than one sex partner, you're at higher risk and should be screened. Tested positive? Genital herpes is contagious; use latex condoms, and ask your doc about antiviral meds.

Fertility

"I'm seeing more women who want to start families later in life than ever before," says Lisa Masterson, MD, attending physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and cohost of the TV show The Doctors.

What You Need to Know
If you're in good health but having problems conceiving, talk to your ob-gyn about a fertility evaluation -- imaging studies and blood tests can help pinpoint why. If you're in your 20s or 30s and want to delay childbirth, ask about freezing your eggs.

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5/9/2012 04:14:55 AM Report Abuse

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