Hi, my name is Leila, and I am one of URJA’s interns. Working with URJA has given me the exciting opportunity to speak with Dr. Sherry Ross, a Co-Founder and the namesake of URJA Intimates by Dr. Sherry!
Dr. Sherry is a renowned OBGYN, known as “doctor to the stars” and is also the author of two best-selling books, She-ology and The She-quel. She has been a passionate advocate for women’s health for over 25 years. The questions I’ve compiled will be shared across several blog posts with the series title Women’s Health Q+A with Dr. Sherry… this is Part 2 (be sure to check back here for more)!
I myself am 19-years-old and am just a tad bit embarrassed to admit that I have never been to the Gynecologist. With that being said, I am very excited to interview someone who can answer my most pressing questions about womanhood… those questions that I’ve never thought (or have been too scared) to ask. I walked into this interview seeking clarity about women’s health + taboos and was blown away by what Dr. Sherry had to say… I hope you feel the same way.
Q: Dr. Sherry, at what age should a woman see an OBGYN, and (for those who haven’t) what is the difference between seeing a Gynecologist and seeing a regular doctor?
A: It’s recommended that girls age 13-15 years old see an OBGYN for the first time with their Pediatrician’s blessing. The very first visit may be just a conversation to ease nerves and set the stage for a long-term and trusted relationship.
An OBGYN will play a big role in helping an adolescent girl understand about the continuing effects that puberty has on the body, menstrual period, red flags, cramps, acne, weight, healthy relationships, birth control, safe sex, sexuality, alcohol, drugs, smoking, taking control of her body and ensuring she has received the HPV vaccination.
The good news is the first visit may be only a conversation and/or an external examination to make sure everything is normal with her vulva. A general exam may be performed which includes checking height, weight, blood pressure, a urine sample and even a thyroid and breast exam if she is comfortable. When I see a patient for her first Gyn visit, I want her to explore and get to know her body, so I will give her the opportunity to take a mirror and look at her vulva and entrance to her vagina, if she is interested. If she isn’t ready to do so during the first visit, there will be many more opportunities in the future to learn about her lady parts. An internal pelvic exam would not be performed unless she is having irregular periods, pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, vaginal itching or a need for testing for sexually transmitted infections. A pap smear testing for cervical cancer involves an internal exam and does not start until she is 21 years old.
Q: I have always heard that it’s “gross” to talk about my vagina, and truthfully, horror stories about trips to the Gynecologist have kept me away from my yearly checkup. Why do you think these stigmas started and what do you have to say about them?
A: 65% of people who identify as female feel uncomfortable saying the word vagina. We have been taught to use code names when discussing our vagina... Coin Purse, Hoo Haa, Coochie, Tunnel of Love… We haven’t been given a comfortable space to talk confidently about our female health in general.
In part, its due to our repressed culture, along with our mom’s upbringing, her religious convictions, our BFF’s input, social media influencers... all of this affects our realities on vaginal health and the language we use to describe our lady parts.
Women need to know more about their bodies, especially their vulva and vagina, plain and simple, I hear this from my patients every day. They are curious about the wonders of the vagina - everything from care and maintenance; to the subject of masturbation, orgasm, female sexual dysfunction to gender equality in the bedroom.
This is the conversation I enjoy most with women - education, empowerment and allowing women to feel comfortable talking about their vagina's without feeling judged or embarrassed.
It’s my job medically and personally to help women feel comfortable talking about their intimate areas - to make the topic shameless and empowering. At the end of the day, every little girl should call her vagina a vagina.
Q: I have heard the vagina is self-cleaning (what exactly does this mean?)… Therefore, why do we need a personal wash? Why does URJA’s pH Balanced Personal Wash stand out to you?
A: To start, yes and no… I like to think of the vagina and vulva like your oven at home. It may be self-cleaning, but you still have to clean the stove top. The inside of the vagina has an army of healthy bacteria that cleans itself with normal vagina discharge… similar to how tears help clean your eyes. The vulva and the entrance to the vagina need attention, given the exposure of bacteria, sweat glands and hair. I like to think that the vulva should have the same feminine hygiene ritual as we dedicate to our face. Intimate skin needs to be cleaned, hydrated and moisturized with love and attention!
URJA Intimates’ pH Balanced Personal Wash is the ideal wash for the vulva and entrance to your vagina, keeping your intimate skin cleansed, smooth and healthy. Women should have a special lady parts cleansing routine and it usually begins with a proper wash and warm water. You’ll definitely have a happy V if you take care of it properly.
Q: Do you have any tips to prevent UTI’s, yeast infections, etc.? What day-to-day tips do you have for women to stay away from these annoying issues?
A: Just like any other part of your body with skin, glands and hair follicles, the appearance of the vulva and vagina is affected by irritants and the aging process… which is why it’s so important that women take care of this delicate area.
There are, of course, known offenders, such as childbirth, hormonal changes including postpartum and menopause, which lead to chronic symptoms such burning, itching, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections and painful sex.
Keeping the skin hydrated, clean and cared for will help prevent dryness, irritation, inflammation and infections.
Creating a helpful daily hygiene ritual includes using a gentle, pH balanced soap (without added dyes/fragrances) and a natural skin moisturizer, especially ones made specifically for the vagina. Over the years, I have always told my patients we need to take care of our vulva and vagina like we do our face using special cleaning, hydrating and moisturizing products for this sensitive area of our body.
Dryness can also occur in menopausal women who are not taking any estrogen, which results in a burning sensation inside the vagina, especially with sex contact and penetration. URJA Intimates has created an Intense Hydrating Lubricant made from extra virgin coconut oil, passion flower, schisandra berry and CBD to make intimacy more enjoyable and comfortable.
If you are experiencing ongoing vaginal dryness, irritation, recurrent vaginal and urinary tract infections, it’s important to see your health care provider to help you strategize with helpful treatment options. You should never suffer in silence!
I hope this second Q+A with Dr. Sherry was as insightful for you as it has been for me! Discover more information on women’s wellness and vaginal health throughout URJA’s website or check out Dr Sherry’s books here.