As OB/GYNs, one of the most common comments that we get from our patients during an examination is:
“I am so sorry! I didn’t get a chance to shave!”
When did that become the expectation? Or is it an expectation at all? What is your doctor REALLY thinking when you come in without any preemptive personal grooming? Does your doctor REALLY care about the hair down there?
The answer is… Yes! But probably for different reasons than you might have thought.
- First, realize that we have seen it all. A personal favorite: A patient who dyed her pubic hair bright green. She had an accompanying tattoo on her lower pelvis that said “Stay off the grass”. But, besides the extreme exceptions, your vulva does not stand out anymore than anyone else’s vulva. Whether it has been shaved, waxed, or if you are going Gwyneth Paltrow “au naturale”, we really don’t notice much, and so in that respect, we don’t care. In fact, some of us are probably thinking “I am right there with you”!
- When do we care? First, the presence (or absence) of pubic hair may be part of the exam. All post pubertal women should naturally have pubic hair. In fact, if you never developed pubic hair, it would raise our suspicion that you could have a rare disorder such as androgen insensitivity disorder. Alternatively, some women have more pubic hair than we would expect that can extend up the abdomen towards the belly button. This could be an important physical exam finding that could lead your doctor to order testing to see if you have an excess of male hormones (androgens) in your system. If you have removed this hair prior to the appointment, we may miss out on an important clue that you have something else going on, like polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- More concerning than the presence of pubic hair is what we often see in its place: folliculitis. Many women will get inflammation and infection of the hair follicles if they shave with a razor. For these women, we recommend avoiding shaving with a razor. Alternatives could include using an electric razor, waxing, or laser hair removal. Or, once again, going the Gwyneth Paltrow “au naturale” route. If Gwyneth can get away with it, anyone can! Electric razors are a great tool because they keep things neat without causing too much inflammation. While they don’t get as close as a shave as a traditional razor, it is fast, convenient, and it saves your skin.
Bottom line: Do what works for you and what keeps your skin nice.