Talking with a doctor // Talking with a doctor - © Alistair Berg|Getty Images(© Alistair Berg|Getty Images)

1. Know your bumps.

Skin tags, inflamed follicles, shaving irritation, and plain old pimples (yes, down there) can all cause genital-area bumps, says Lauren Streicher, M.D., of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. STD sores vary widely in appearance and are sometimes painless or hard to see. Call your M.D. but keep calm: Your lump might be ugly but innocuous.

2. Gross me out? Please.

"Diagnosing and treating STDs is part of my job; nothing about it makes me uncomfortable," says Catherine Hansen, M.D., M.P.H. "You can't show me something--sores, discharge, rashes--I haven't seen before." If your doc is the one acting awkward, find a new one.

3. Speak up about (free!) screening.

Don't assume you'll be tested during your annual gyno exam, says Melissa Goist, M.D. STD tests are not automatically included with a Pap smear. Ask to be tested before you have sex with a new partner or if you think something is amiss. Bonus: Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans fully cover all STD screenings.

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4. It's never too late.

If you already have an STD, you may think you don't need testing. Wrong. "There's no limit to the number of STDs you can have at once," says Sara Gottfried, M.D. "In fact, you're more likely to catch an infection if you already have one, because open sores can make it easier for new infections to enter the body."

5. Relax, it's the un-STD.

Anything that throws off your vagina's natural bacterial balance (sex, your period) can result in the ubercommon BV (bacterial vaginosis). Its symptoms--discharge, fishy odor, burning--mirror those of many STDs, but it's not sexually transmitted or harmful in and of itself, says Streicher. BV can, however, lower your defenses against actual STDs, so be sure to ask your doctor for treatment.

6. Consider a new shield.

Female condoms guard the vagina, vulva, and surrounding skin, so they may offer more protection than condoms against STDs spread via skin-to-skin contact. (In a WH poll, 25 percent of you said you'd be willing to try a female condom.)

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7. Check your girl parts.

You might feel squeamish, but it will quickly become a monthly routine, says Hansen. All it takes is five minutes, a handheld mirror, and a flashlight. It's crucial to know your own normal so you can spot anything suspicious.

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