Lauren Streicher, MD
Lauren Streicher, MD, is an Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Medical Director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause. Dr. Streicher is a Fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a member of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, Inc., The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, The Scientific Network on Female Sexual Health and Cancer, The Association for Gynecologic Laparoscopy, and is a Certified Menopause Practitioner of The North American Menopause Society.
Dr. Streicher appears frequently in the media and is a recurrent guest on shows such as “WGN News,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Doctor Oz Show,” “The Today Show,” and “Good Morning America.” Her consumer articles can be found on Drstreicher.com. In 2015 she released a comprehensive sexual health book, “Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever.” Dr. Streicher has also published, “The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy” (2004 and 2013).
What causes vaginal discharge? And why does it smell bad?
A clear mucous vaginal discharge isn’t only normal, but also necessary for vaginal lubrication. But an offensive odor is not normal and may indicate an infection such as bacterial vaginosis, or even a forgotten tampon. Sometimes the vaginal pH is "off," a common occurrence after intercourse or menstruation.
When should I be concerned about my irregular periods?
Some irregularity is generally no cause for concern. This is as long as you get a period at least every three months that’s not too heavy, and you otherwise feel well. If you’re using hormonal contraception such as birth control pills or an IUD, it’s normal to not get a regular (or any) period. If you’re trying to conceive and don’t get regular periods, see your gynecologist sooner rather than later.
I’m scheduled for a Pap test. Is there any harm delaying it for a few months?
A Pap test is a screen for cervical cancer. Unlike other cancers, abnormal changes in the cervical cells are often present for years prior to an actual invasive cancer. In other words, for a woman at low risk and no history of abnormal Pap tests, a few months’ delay shouldn’t make a difference.
How often do I need to see my OB-GYN?
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there’s a benefit to an annual visit even if you do not have a specific problem. Incontinence, vaginal dryness, sexual problems, or new growths on the vulva or cervix are among the very long list of conditions and issues I check for at an annual visit.
So yes, you do still need to see your gynecologist even if it’s not a “Pap test year.”
I’m in my 40s and feel fatigued and have low energy levels. Is this a sign of menopause?
Probably not. Certainly many women in their early 40s start to experience the perimenopausal roller coaster. But if fatigue is your only symptom, other issues, such as an underactive thyroid or anemia are more likely. A visit to your doctor is definitely in order.
Is shaving or waxing better for the bikini area? I’ve also had friends that have done laser hair removal, but that seems a little too extreme.
Waxing, shaving, electrolysis, clipping, chemical depilatories, and laser removal are all options for bikini hair removal. Keep in mind that, with the exception of clipping, red bumps can result no matter what method you choose, particularly in African-American women. Professional waxing and laser often result in the least amount of irritation, allergy, or complications.
My only word of warning is this: Before choosing a method of permanent hair removal, such as laser, keep in mind that next year an ungroomed mons may be in style again!
I’m a new mom and my periods have come back super heavy. Should I be worried?
One isolated period that’s heavier than usual is generally not a cause for concern. But if your periods are consistently heavier than they have ever been before, it’s worth getting checked out. The explanation may be as simple as a change in contraception method, but it's always good to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on.
How will I know if I have a vaginal infection?
Persistent itching, burning, or odor may indicate a yeast or bacterial imbalance. Sometimes a colored discharge (yellow-green or blood tinged) is the only symptom. While most women assume that yeast is the most common cause for abnormal discharge, itching, or odor, bacterial vaginosis is actually the most common culprit
What’s the best way to keep clean “down there”? Can I still use my favorite scented body wash?
Believe it or not, plain water is sufficient to keep your vulva (external genital tissue) clean. Soap isn’t only unnecessary, but for some women may irritate delicate vulvar tissue. If you want to use soap (or that scented body wash), feel free, but if you are experiencing itching, burning, or redness, stick to mild soaps or cleansers recommended by a dermatologist or gynecologist. The vagina (internal genital tissues) is self-cleaning. Douching is unnecessary, and also harmful.
I know that cotton undies are best, but I can’t resist giving up on my lace intimates. What’s a woman to do?
There is absolutely no reason to give up the luxury lingerie. It is a total myth that cotton is better for vaginal health or will decrease the chance of infection. Leave the granny panties for granny. Or better yet, buy your granny some of the good stuff.
Can the vagina really stretch out of shape by using tampons and having sex?