At one point in our lives, all women need to do something that we are at least somewhat anxious about: make our first trip to the gynecologist. When we hear that dreaded word gynecologist, the feeling of our skin pressed against a cold metal table, and uncomfortable images of a doctor up in our lady parts often come to mind. But have no fear, visiting a gynecologist is not nearly as terrible as we originally thought.
A woman’s first visit to the gynecologist varies for every female depending on their age and circumstances surrounding their reproductive health. Dr. Wagner of Dedham Medical in Massachusetts recommends that generally, a woman should visit a gynecologist within two to three years of first becoming sexual active. However, even if a woman is not sexual active by the age of twenty-one, women should still visit a gynecologist.
Sometimes it take sometimes to find a gynecologist that will meet your needs. However once you have decided on which gynecologist is the best fit for you and have set an appointment, you can begin preparing for this momentous occasion. It is recommended that you prepare possible questions or concerns you may have for you doctor involving your reproductive health, sex, and sexually transmitted infections. You may be asked about your family’s health history, and it is important to remember when you first had your period, and when your last period began in order to inform your doctor.
When the day of your appointment finally comes, don’t be nervous! The appointment typically begins the same as other physicals; your height, weight, blood pressure, and other vitals are often taken. When you meet your doctor, stay calm. Your gynecologist should make sure you are as comfortable as possible being there, and should take the time to get to know you. This is usually the point where you are asked about your medical history, and your family’s medical history, and when you can begin to share your questions and concerns. Remember, this is no wrong or “stupid” question you can ask. If you are concerned, or even just curious, do not be afraid to ask your doctor about it; they are there to answer any questions you may have!
Following the initial gathering of information, your gynecologist will begin the physical examination portion. At any point during these examinations, feel free to stop your doctor to ask possible questions you may have. No matter your age when you first visit, a gynecologist will typically give a breast examination to check for lumps or anything abnormal on them. Next your doctor may examine the outside of your genitalia, rather than give you a full pelvic exam. If you are under the age of twenty-one, there is a chance of this happening. However, if you are twenty-one and older, a woman who has been sexually active for a while, or if you experience possible symptoms that may alert your doctor to an issue, such as abnormal discharge, painful periods, or vaginal burning, you are probably receiving a pelvic exam.
If you have just learned that you are receiving a dreaded pelvic exam, once again, do not fret! Though possibly uncomfortable at first, a pelvic examination is extremely vital to your reproductive health. During this examination, your gynecologist will check your vulva for possible infections, and look to take cell samples from inside of your vagina in order to check for possible sexually transmitted infections. During this point, your gynecologist may also do a pap smear, which involves scraping off sample cells from your cervix to check for possible abnormal cells. Both of these steps are vital for checking to make sure you are clear of the Human papillomavirus (otherwise known as HPV, or simply put, genital warts). A study done by Kari P Braaten and Marc R Laufer has revealed that roughly 70% of cervical cancers found in women in 2008 were caused by the HPV virus. If you have not already received the HPV vaccination from your regular doctor, you can talk to your gynecologist about receiving the vaccination from them.
Towards the end of your pelvic exam, your doctor will check your cervix, ovaries, and womb for possible cysts or other abnormal bumps or lumps. This can be considered the most uncomfortable part of your entire visit, but as long as you stay calm and relaxed, it should not be painful, and your gynecologist will try to make it as comfortable as possible for you.
At the end of your appointment, you can discuss with your gynecologist when it may be best to make your next appointment. Women are recommended to visit their gynecologist yearly as you would with a regular physical. Once you have had your first pelvic exam, seeing your gynecologist yearly becomes even more important in order to be sure your health does not change. If you experience any problematic symptoms with your reproductive health, or if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you can visit your gynecologist more regularly as you and your doctor find fit.
Though seeing a gynecologist may seem daunting at first, you will soon realize you have nothing to worry about once you begin visiting. When you find a doctor you are comfortable with, you will no longer dread visiting your gynecologist, and begin seeing it more as part of your yearly routine. Visiting the gynecologist is vital to your health, and though a little overwhelming at first, these regular visits will ensure your awareness of your own reproductive and sexual health.