Anonymous on September 7, 2011

When should I start seeing an Ob-Gyn?

I have several questions...First, when should a girl get Pap smears done or start to go to see an Ob-Gyn? I’m not sexually active, but I do masturbate regularly. Is there a right way to masturbate? Sometimes I notice traces of brownish discharge on my panties. And finally, is it possible to get an STD from eating off the same plate and touching the same food as someone who has an STD? (My friend has multiple partners and hasn’t been tested.)

answered by Linda Lesondak, PhD on September 7, 2011

You’ve ask some great questions and I’m happy to help.  

Generally-speaking, girls should have their first visit to a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15...and her first Pap test by the time she’s 21. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, girls should have their first visit in their early teens to discuss sexuality and other health issues with a doctor. And the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that women get their first Pap test when they’re 21...or within three years of starting sexual activity (which ever comes first).

Because they specialize in female sexuality, gynecologists are the best type of doctor you can turn to with questions about sex and reproduction.

To answer your question about masturbation...there is no right or wrong way to masturbate. Discovering what gives you pleasure is a journey, and it’s different for everyone.

As for your brown discharge...sometimes when women are sexually stimulated they will experience glandular output or discharge that is typically clear or whitish. But a brownish blood spot is more concerning.

Are you experiencing any pain? Have you inserted anything into your vagina? A number of conditions could be causing your off-color discharge including a type of infection. I encourage you to visit your gynecologist for a thorough examination and for treatment, if needed.

And regarding your third question about whether STDs can be spread by sharing food...that’s highly unlikely. The chances of getting an STD through everyday contact with someone who’s infected, including sharing food, are close to nil.

Finally, about your friend who’s had multiple partners and hasn’t been tested...I encourage you to talk to your friend about STD risk factors, including multiple sexual partners. Having multiple sex partners puts your friend at higher risk. Luckily, practicing safer sex can help reduce the risk to catching an STD. And regular STD testing can help spot an STD before it causes long-term complications.

Remember, many STDs don’t show signs or symptoms for a long the only way to know if someone has an STD is to get tested regularly as part of an overall health maintenance plan.

In our Expert Guide to STD Basics, you can learn more about STD risks, prevention, and complications from undiagnosed and untreated STDs.

Thanks for writing, and I hope you continue to seek out information to help you make smart decisions about your sexual health.

Related info:

Linda Lesondak, PhD

Dr. Lesondak is a Community Psychologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include STDs, HIV, preventive care, public health and community planning, as well as human sexuality and women’s health. Dr. Lesondak was educated at Georgia University in Atlanta.

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