5 Questions About 'Down There' You're Too Embarrassed To Ask

A doctor answers all of your potentially embarrassing sex questions.

Woman waiting for a gynecological exam

For many women, the area "down there" is a bit of a mystery, and a big reason is that our most personal questions can be hard -- or just too embarrassing -- to ask our doctors. In her new book, Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk & Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions, Marie Savard, M.D., ABC News Medical Contributor, explains what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to women's health.


Read the excerpt below to see Dr. Marie’s answers to the private questions you've always wanted to ask.

How Often is Often Enough?

Most people think other people are having more sex than they are. In truth, the only people having a whole lot of sex are those in that dizzying first phase of romantic love when you are literally drugged by your own hormones and just can’t keep your hands off each other. There’s an old saying that goes, "Before you get married, put a bead in a big jar every time you have sex. Soon you will fill the jar. After you get married, take out a bead every time you have sex. You will never empty that jar." Scientifically, the reason this is true is that when you move from the giddy throes of falling in love to the comfy Sunday-morning-with-pancakes-and-the-paper stage of a relationship, a different hormone takes over. You don’t get a rush of adrenaline and other inner opiates that makes you crave a sexual encounter anymore. What you do get is a steady stream of the bonding hormone oxytocin. (It’s the same one that pumps copiously when a woman is in labor or breastfeeding.) In other words, the neighbors probably aren’t doing it any more than you are if you’ve been together for a while -- and that’s just fine.


Here is some hard data about the frequency of sexual encounters. According to a University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center General Survey in 2005, the number of reported episodes of intercourse go down with each decade of life:

Ages 18–29: a mean of 84 episodes per year
Ages 30–39: a mean of 80 episodes per year
Ages 40–49: a mean of 63.5 episodes per year
Ages 50–59: a mean of 45.8 episodes per year
Ages 60–69: a mean of 27.1 episodes per year
Ages 70 and older: a mean of 10.4 episodes per year

What’s the Best Way to Keep My Genital Area Clean?

Right after my first son was born, I discovered that the hypoallergenic baby wipes I had bought for him were also perfect for keeping my own "private parts" clean. The French have the bidet and at least one American company is now making a toilet seat that doubles as a bidet, but I simply use my wipes. They’re soothing, effective, and portable. I keep containers of them in the bathrooms and the powder room in my house and I carry a travel-size packet in my purse. Toilet paper is dry and irritating. It doesn’t cleanse your vulvar area well at all. In fact, a report published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association confirms this. Think about all that happens in such a small area "down there" -- we have sex, we urinate, and we have bowel movements. Baby wipes clean best and they moisturize delicate tissues. My personal favorites are wipes infused with aloe, but use any brand that feels good to you. However, stay away from scented wipes that can cause allergic reactions. Also, even if your brand claims to be "flushable," don’t risk backing up the plumbing.


Can I Catch STIs or Get Pregnant from Toilet Seats?

Let me dispel a decades-old myth. When I entered nursing school way back in 1967, the head nurse advised us girls (our class was all "girls" in those days) to beware of toilet seats. “When it comes to getting pregnant," she warned, "you never know how close is too close.”" She further explained that toilet seats might contain the "seeds" to start a pregnancy. She was wrong, but we believed her. And back then it never entered our minds that we might get an STI from a toilet seat. Pregnancy was the big scare when it came to messing around with boys or sitting on wet toilet seats. Today, when women get an unusual rash "down there," they may worry that they got the infection from a dirty public toilet seat. Trust me, that’s virtually impossible. Viruses can’t live very long outside the body. I have never seen a study reporting any toilet-seat-related disease. You can use those paper toilet seat covers if they make you feel better or you can lift up the seat and "hover" if you’re good at it, but personally I just sit down. For obvious reasons, I wipe off a wet seat but I rarely try to balance myself in that "squat and hang" position, especially not in the bathroom of a moving airplane or train. As you know if you’ve tried that, one lurch of the vehicle can mean that you’re guaranteed to miss your mark. My advice is to wipe it down, sit, and be comfortable.

Should I Douche?

I suspect that nothing tempts a woman to douche more than the embarrassing fishy odor that is the most prevalent symptom of BV [bacterial vaginosis], especially right after sex. Yet ironically, douching can cause BV and also make it worse by further upsetting the balance of healthy and harmful bacteria. Douching is a very bad idea! Don’t do it.


What Can I Do to Clear Up My Yeast Infection Faster?

These are simple steps you can take to speed your recovery and keep infections from recurring:
-Don’t use tampons while you’re being treated for a yeast infection.
-Even after the infection is gone, don’t use super-absorbent tampons.
-While you’re being treated, change your sanitary pads frequently.
-Wear cotton underwear, or panties and pantyhose with cotton crotches. Synthetic fabrics don’t wick up moisture. That leads to "maceration" or "soaking and softening" of tissues. This in turn encourages fungal overgrowth.
-Don’t wear tight jeans.
-Use baby wipes after each bowel movement. Be sure to wipe from front to back.
-Do not douche.
-If you use a diaphragm, rinse it off after each use and never leave it in for days at a time as I once did when I was on call as a medical resident.
-Don’t stop taking or applying your prescribed medication just because you feel better. If you do, you may increase the chance of the infection coming back.

Written by Kimberly Papa for AOL Health