April 16, 2013

From Health magazine

Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa answers our most uncomfortable questions–providing straight talk about "outies," vaginal odor, and more.

Q: Why does an “innie” navel pop out when a woman is pregnant but not if she just gains a lot of weight?

A: The growing fetus, uterus, and buildup of amniotic fluids cause the abdomen to expand rapidly during pregnancy. So much pressure so fast stretches the skin and ultimately turns an “innie” navel into an “outie.” During normal weight gain, the stretching is much more gradual, so theres no intense, outward push on the abdomen. If your transformed belly button alarms you, dont worry: It should become an innie again in a few months postdelivery. On the off-chance that it doesnt (this happens infrequently), minor plastic surgery could restore innie status.

Q: Im dying to try these detoxifying pads Ive seen on TV, but my friends think theyre a joke. Worth it or not?

A: These pads claim to leach toxins and even cellulite from your body through the soles of your feet while you sleep, thanks to a mixture of bamboo vinegar and other “100 percent all-natural ingredients.” But no scientific evidence thus far supports their efficacy. So why do the pads turn a seemingly toxin-rich brown overnight? Most likely they contain chemicals that react with the perspiration, oils, and warmth of your feet in some way. My advice? Save your money and down a glass of water to help your kidneys flush out toxins the truly natural way.

Q: Ive got a fishy vaginal odor but no increased discharge or other symptoms. What might be wrong?

A: That fishy smell could be a symptom of a common condition known as bacterial vaginosis, or BV. It occurs when theres an upset of the balance of good bacteria (known as lactobacilli) and bad bacteria in your vagina. Other symptoms of BV may include unusual vaginal discharge, pain, itching, or burning, but BV can be symptomless or recognizable by yucky odor alone. (Yeast infections, which can also cause itching and discharge, dont cause this odor.) BV is common during pregnancy. Other known causes: sex with multiple partners, using a diaphragm, or douching (which removes those helpful lactobacilli from your vagina—so dont do it!). Forgetting to remove a tampon or leaving one in too long can also throw the vaginas bacterial balance out of whack and cause a stink. After the tampons removed, the odor should clear up quickly. If you have any odor for more than 48 hours, see your doc. BV is diagnosed with a simple lab culture and treated with antibiotics.

Q: My husband has warts on his hands. Could I get them if he touches me down there?

A: Theres a small risk, but its highly unlikely. Hand and genital warts are caused by different strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. (Most strains are harmless.) On rare occasions, though, the strain of HPV that causes warts on hands can indeed cause warts elsewhere. To be extra-safe, have your husband wear thin latex gloves during any sex play until his warts are gone. (He should treat them with over-the-counter salicylic-acid medication; if they persist, he should see a dermatologist.) Even after that, make sure you dont have any cuts, nicks, or open sores down there—these can spread HPV even when all warts are gone. The HPV vaccine is no help in this case: It protects against separate strains of HPV and is not recommended for women over age 26.

Q: My hair is thinning. Is there anything I can do?

A: For nearly half of women who experience some hair loss, its caused by a hereditary condition known as alopecia. One solution: Womens Rogaine, the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for hereditary hair loss in women. But if your hairs coming out in clumps or patches, it could be a sign of a thyroid disorder (diagnosed with a blood test) or a result of stress, illness, damage from blow-drying and styling, and even crash-dieting. Make sure you get plenty of protein and iron in your diet: Try adding a little extra lean red meat or an occasional boiled egg. Certain medications that meddle with hormones, like some antidepressants, antiarthritis meds, and even birth control pills, can cause thinning, too. If youre taking one of these, your doc might be able to change your prescription or dosage.

Finally, a new-mom alert: Postpregnancy hormone shifts often cause some hair loss, but that should end after a few months.

Q: Sometimes when I laugh or exercise, a little pee squirts out. Am I doomed to wear diapers?

A: Sounds like youre experiencing mild urinary incontinence (UI), one of those bummers of being a woman. It affects women twice as often as men. And it can show up after childbirth or during menopause, thanks to a weakening of the pelvic-floor muscles that help with bladder control. Some women lose just a few drops when they exercise, cough, sneeze, or belt out a hearty laugh. Others may feel an urgent need to go—followed by a heavy, uncontrollable release of urine. Being overweight can make things worse because extra pounds put extra pressure on those struggling pelvic muscles.

One way to tone your pelvic floor is by doing Kegel exercises, which many women do before and after pregnancy. Tense the muscles around your vagina and anus several times (sort of the opposite of bearing down), while avoiding tightening your stomach, legs or buttocks; hold for three seconds, release, and repeat, building up to 10 to 15 repetitions three times a day. Also, try wearing a panty liner or thin pad to catch any leaks, and avoid coffee and tea for about an hour before you hit the gym. Ask your doctor about other options, like medication or biofeedback.