A Guide to Your First Gynecologist Visit
Women should visit their OB-GYN at least once a year for an exam, though they likely won't need a Pap test every year. If you're preparing for your first gynecologist visit, don't worry; it's normal to feel nervous. Knowing what to expect and what questions to ask a gynecologist could ease your anxiety.
Preparing ahead of time can help you feel more prepared for your appointment.
Not sure what to expect or what questions to ask? Read on to prepare for a gynecologist visit today!
Before visiting your gynecologist's office, take a moment to consider why you're scheduling the appointment.
Most doctors recommend girls schedule their first appointment between the ages of 13 and 15, while their bodies are still changing. Consider preparing a list of questions to ask a Gynecologist about:
- Birth control
- Period or hormonal changes/issues
- Testing for sexually transmitted infections
- Pap smear testing
Having a list of questions prepared ahead of time will ensure you don't forget to ask anything during your appointment. It can also help you feel more in control of your health.
Most appointments last between 20 and 30 minutes. You'll want to make the most of that type while advocating for your health care needs. Remaining organized will ensure your anxiety about the appointment doesn't cause you to forget anything.
Know Your History
Before your first gynecology appointment, talk to your parents about their health history. Gathering information about your family's medical history will give the doctor a better understanding of your needs.
For example, you should know if your family has a history of blood clots. Your gynecologist might not recommend contraceptive options that contain estrogen as a result.
Consider your own history, too. If you've been on birth control in the past, let your gynecologist know. Make a list of any medications or supplements you take on a routine basis as well.
Write down your medical history ahead of time to ensure you don't forget anything. If you visited a hormone specialist or OB-GYN in the past, have your medical records transferred. Completing these steps ahead of time will ensure everything is ready before your appointment.
For Patients Under 21
If you're under the age of 21, don't worry; your doctor likely won't recommend a pelvic exam. If that's what you're worried about, call your gynecologist's office ahead of time. They can give you a better idea of what to expect.
Patients under the age of 21 will only need a pelvic exam if they have specific health concerns, including painful periods of abnormal bleeding. Your gynecologist might also recommend an exam if you're sexually active or need STI testing. Let the office know ahead of time if that's the case.
Patients over the age of 21 will likely need a Pap test and pelvic exam. Knowing what to expect from both can help you feel less anxious about your upcoming appointment.
To complete a Pap test, your gynecologist will swab the lower part of your uterus (cervix). The cervix connects to your vagina. Swabbing this area allows your gynecologist to collect a sample of cervical cells.
Your gynecologist will send the sample to a lab to test for potential abnormalities.
If the test comes back positive, it could indicate you have cervical cancer. Don't worry, though; it's rare. Cervical cancer is also treatable.
Your gynecologist might recommend a breast exam to determine if you're at risk of breast cancer, too. Let the office know ahead of time if you're not comfortable.
During a pelvic exam, your gynecologist will first complete an external exam. They examine your vulva, which includes your clitoris, labia, and the opening of your vagina.
They'll need to use a speculum to examine your vagina and cervix. A speculum is a medical device that's inserted into the vagina, allowing the gynecologist to get a better view.
Your gynecologist might complete a bimanual pelvic examination (BPE) to assess your internal pelvic organs. They'll insert two fingers into your vagina while putting pressure on the lower part of your belly. You'll only need a BPE if you have a medical history of unusual bleeding or pelvic pain.
Let your gynecologist know if you're interested in starting on birth control. They can review the pros and cons of each option available to help you make an informed choice. You can start using birth control without receiving a pelvic exam.
To help you determine which option best suits your needs, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and lifestyle.
One of the best things you can do as an advocate for your reproductive health is to remain honest with your gynecologist. For example, you should let them know if you experience period symptoms such as:
- Heavy bleeding
- Mood changes
Be prepared to discuss details about your period and sex life. Remaining honest with your gynecologist will help them fully assess your health. Otherwise, they might struggle to provide the support you're looking for.
Don't worry about your appearance, including the length of your labia or pubic hair. If you feel anxious or self-conscious before your appointment, take a deep breath. Remember, your doctor has seen it all before.
Before your appointment, shower and rinse your labia ahead of time.
Prepare for Follow-Ups
Before leaving the gynecologist's office, ask how often you'll need to schedule follow-up appointments.
For example, you'll likely need to schedule a pelvic exam every three years. If you're on birth control, you might need to visit the doctor's office more often. Your gynecologist can help you determine a more accurate schedule based on your needs.
Prep for Your First Gynecologist Visit Without Stress
You don't have to feel nervous about your first gynecologist visit. Instead, use this guide to prepare yourself ahead of time. Knowing what to expect can help you feel less anxious about the appointment.
Get ready to take control of your health today!
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