Up close and personal: What to expect at the gyno
Everything about you is lovely and amazing—including your lady parts—and regular gynecological visits will keep it that way. Yes, you’re going to have to wear a skimpy, paper examination gown. Yes, the doctor is going to see your vagina in all its glory. Do it anyway.
A Typical Appointment Usually Includes…
Health history: You’ll answer questions about you, your sex life, and your family’s health. Aim for honesty so your doc can truly understand how to advise you.
Breast exam: The doctor is going to assess your breast health by feeling them. You should also be doing a breast self-exam about once a month.
Pelvic exam: This usually includes putting your feet into stirrups and sliding down the examination table so all your stuff is ready for viewing. You may feel shy right about now. (Understatement!) Try not to tense up because that makes the exam less comfortable. Out of respect for your privacy, most doctors are very efficient at giving a pelvic exam. It will be over fast.
External exam: This is the part of the pelvic exam that makes sure your vulva and outer vagina are looking healthy. Your doctor has seen it all before, so try not to feel too self-conscious.
Speculum exam: This is the part when an instrument is used to separate your vaginal opening so the doctor can see under the hood your cervix. It doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t feel that comfortable either. Mostly because speculums are usually metal which can be REALLY cold when it touches your skin. Feel free to ask your doc to warm the speculum with hot water or hands before it’s inserted.
Testing for STIs: Doctors can test for STIs by taking a sample of cervical mucus. If they don’t mention this procedure, it’s perfectly normal for you – the patient – to ask to be tested. Many STIs don’t have symptoms, so it’s good to get checked, just to be safe and informed.
Pap smear: This is when the doc swabs your cervix to check for cancerous or precancerous cells. Again, this does not hurt. It’s just not super fun.
Rectovaginal exam: Your backside also gets checked. The doctor will insert a gloved finger and feel for tumors or irregularities of the rectum, uterus, and vagina. As challenging as this is, it’s part of staying healthy, so don’t avoid it even though you want to.
How to Talk With Them
Fact: When it comes to your reproductive health, there are no stupid questions. Go ahead and ask your doctor anything during your appointment. Even if they seem rushed, speak up and ask what you need to ask. This is where you’ve got to be bold for your own wellbeing.
It helps to write your questions down in advance and bring a notepad if you want to take notes. You might want to ask about birth control, side effects, your period or PMS, STI tests, health concerns, or any changes you’ve noticed in your reproductive health. Here’s a handy list of questions you can bring to any medical visit.
What if the doctor is a man? Remember that he is a trained professional and this is a normal day’s work for him. If you’re still uncomfortable seeing a dude doctor, it’s ok to ask for a female professional to also be in the room with you.
- What if the doctor is an ass? Medical professionals are human and they have bad days or bad personalities. If you really did not like your doctor, find another one who makes you feel valued and cared for as a patient. It’s no big deal to switch. If you go to a clinic, you can also ask them never to put you with that doctor again.
What if I cannot afford healthcare? Oh yes you can. Money does not have to get in the way of your health or pregnancy prevention. There are tons of affordable health centers that will work with you to provide medical care and birth control you can afford. (Call around. Sometimes you can get both for free.)
What if they find something wrong? If your exam or lab results give the doctor cause for concern, he or she will schedule a follow up to take care of you. Don’t panic. Just deal with it quickly (to keep anything from getting worse) and get healthy.
What if I have my period? Call and ask if you should reschedule your appointment. Sometimes menstrual blood can ruin the accuracy of test results.
Suck It Up and Make An Appointment You should start seeing a gynecologist every year after age 18 or if you’re sexually active. Go more often if you have concerns or questions about your health. If you need to find a doctor, we have a huge list of local health centers. We even have free appointment reminders so you show up on time.
Bring a good book for the waiting room,
P.S. Did you know that the IUD is one of the safest, most effective types of birth control and it can last up to 12 years inside you?
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