How to make an appointment with a gynecologist

There are so many changes taking place in a girl’s body during adolescence and early adulthood that she may feel awkward and at odds with her body. Throw “visiting the gynecologist” into the mix and you have the recipe for a potential case of the jitters. However, we all know how important it is to take care of our health, and regular visits to your AOA gynecologist are simply an essential part of growing up and taking responsibility for your health.

If you are a young woman contemplating her “first time” or a mother looking to set her daughter’s mind at ease, we’ve provided an overview of what to expect during your first visit to a gynecologist, along with some helpful hints on how to prepare yourself beforehand. Relax, put your feet up (not in the stirrups quite yet) and let us demystify the experience and reassure you that there is nothing to fear.

Why it’s Important to Have Regular Gynecological Exams
Regular gynecological exams serve at least three main purposes:

  1. Information. You can get accurate information and confidential answers to any questions you may have concerning sex, sexuality, your changing body, and menstruation.
  2. Prevention. You can learn about pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, and healthy lifestyles.
  3. Treatment. For women who experience missed periods, pain, or other reproductive problems, the doctor can look into why the problems are occurring and offer treatment. This includes both you and your AOA doctor becoming more familiar with your family medical history. Before you go for your first visit to the gynecologist, you should find out as much as you can about the medical history of other females in your family. Have they had painful periods? Endometriosis? Ectopic pregnancies? Surgeries? Anemia? Cancer? Diabetes? Other chronic illnesses?

Before the Exam
When you decide to make an appointment for a gynecological exam with your AOA doctor, make sure to schedule it to take place during the middle of your menstrual cycle. Avoid sexual intercourse, having a vaginal douche, or putting anything (such as tampons) into your vagina for two days before the exam.

Think ahead about the questions you’d like to ask your AOA doctor during the visit. Writing the questions down will make it easier to remember. Some areas where you may have questions include birth control methods, common infections, irregular periods, painful periods, and mood swings related to your periods.

Again, gather your family medical history, especially your mother’s history and if you have older sisters, you’ll want to know about them as well.

On the Day of the Exam
On the day of your scheduled exam you do not need to do anything special. Shower normally with soap and water, but avoid using powders or creams, since they can affect test results. Wear comfortable, uncomplicated clothes in order to feel calm when it comes time to undress.

Before your examination a nurse may ask for urine and blood samples. The nurse will also weigh and measure you and take your blood pressure.

The nurse will then ask you to undress and will then leave you alone in a room for a while. You will be given a hospital gown and/or drape sheet, which will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Once you are undressed and in your gown, your AOA healthcare provider will come back into the examination room and talk for a bit. The doctor will ask questions about your previous medical history, your family history and past surgeries. He or she will ask you to remember when your first period was and tell them what it is like – whether your menstrual cycle is regular, how long it lasts, etc. Also, it is important to tell your doctor whether you are sexually active or not. Your AOA doctor is a partner in your health care, so feel free to ask any questions you may have. Remember that anything you say in privacy with the doctor is kept strictly confidential.

After you are ready, the doctor will ask you to sit on the examining table, putting your feet in the foot rests/stirrups. This can feel a bit invasive, but keep in mind that these exams are necessary and important for keeping you in the best of health. There is no need to feel embarrassed. Just remember the vast majority of adult American women have these exams regularly.

Physical and External Genitalia Exams
Physical examination includes palpation of the breasts to check for any abnormalities, as well as pelvic, abdominal and manual exams. You AOA physician will examine your external genitalia with latex gloves on and will examine your vulva for any pathologic symptoms. Physical examination should not be painful but if it is, you should tell your doctor right away, since this could be a sign of certain pathology.

Speculum Examination
After examining you externally, your AOA gynecologist will insert a lubricated speculum into your vagina to check for any abnormalities like cysts, erosions, or irritations. Before the speculum is inserted the doctor will first slip a finger into your vagina to find the cervix and detect the vaginal angle. The doctor will then insert the speculum into your vagina and click it into an open position. Again, this is not painful, but it might feel a little strange at first. Remember to just breathe and relax.

Once the speculum is in place, the doctor will take a Pap smear. This means that a few cells of your cervix will be swiped with a brush or spatula. This is not painful, but may cause a slight pinch or sensation and it may cause some spotting afterwards, which should not be painful either and will not last. The doctor will then collect samples for sexually transmitted diseases tests. Then the speculum will be gently removed from the vagina and this portion of the examination will be over.

Bimanual Exam
During this part of the examination, your gynecologist will lubricate her/his two (second and third) fingers and insert them into your vagina. The doctor will put another hand on your abdomen in order to palpate the uterus and ovaries and check for any swelling or growths.

The bimanual exam ends the gynecological examination, which normally takes no longer than 5 minutes. You will then be able to remove your legs from the stirrups and get up from the examination table and get dressed.

After the Exam
An AOA office nurse will follow up with any test results, either by phone or by email.

Helping You Feel Comfortable and Well Informed
Your AOA physician and office staff will go out of their way to make sure you understand the elements of the exam and feel as comfortable as possible. Be sure to ask if you have any questions or concerns.

Learn more about getting your first gynecological exam:

  • Your Daughter’s First Gynecological Exam
  • Your First Pelvic Exam
  • Visiting the Gynecologist

If you get a little bit of OB/GYN anxiety before your annual visit, well, sister, you’re not alone. In fact, so many women experience nerves before GYN visits that they’ve developed pre-exam rituals to calm them.

Edelman Intelligence, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, and HealthyWomen surveyed a thousand American women on what they do and think about before and during their appointments, and the short answer is, a lot. Here’s what they do to prep:

• 70 percent of patients shave and wax before they go in to see their doc.
• One in 10 women actually forks over some cash for a bikini wax or Brazilian. (You don’t have to impress your doctor, ladies!)
• 70 percent of women spend more time in the shower than usual before their exams, standing under the water for seven minutes extra on average.
• 85 percent of women think about their appointment when they decide what to wear that day.
• 80 percent of women choose granny panties over lingerie. (Trying to seem modest, maybe? Again: Your gyno does not care about your underwear.)

Once women actually get to their exam room, there are new things to worry about. Such as, Which way does the dressing gown go? (Forty-five percent leave it open in the front, and 55 percent put the slit in the back.) “Do I take my socks off?” (One in five women do.) “Where should I put my underwear?” (Get ready for this: Four out of five hide them in the exam room! Where!?)

With all these things racing through our minds, it’s no wonder a lot of us don’t even get around to the very issues we came there to address. Only 42 percent of women in their thirties actually talk about their sex lives with their gynecologists, even though 61 percent are thinking about it. In fact, women were more likely to discuss the weather on their doctors’ visits. (Not exactly getting what you paid for there.)

Truth be told, most gynecologists have seen and heard everything, so there’s no reason to worry about your appearance or avoid sexual questions—or any questions, for that matter. Even if that question is “Where should I put my underwear?” All you need to worry about is making sure you go every year.

There comes a time in every person with a vagina’s life that they must start seeing an ob-gyn. I went for my first gynecologist visit after I got my first period, and she just acted like the blood coming out of my vagina was normal, so I did too. When I got to college, I had a few friends claim to be “best friends” with their gyno. Complete honesty without shame? Sign me up. Talking to your gyno about things like vaginal discharge might seem odd if you’re not used to talking about that stuff, but your ob-gyn’s job is to make you feel comfortable about the uncomfortable. Got a question about a new smell? Ask it.

Before you make your first appointment, we found out exactly what you should know before your first gyno visit by talking to Sherry Ross, M.D., ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and Antonio Pizarro, M.D., a board-certified gynecologist in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Below are 10 more things every person should know before going to the gyno.

1. You don’t need a reason to schedule your first appointment.

“It’s recommended girls 13–15 years old see their gynecologist to start and build a relationship to discuss sexually transmitted infection screening, prevention, and other health care advice,” says Dr. Ross. “If you missed this window, now is the time to make yourself an appointment. You want to develop an open and honest relationship where you feel comfortable to ask questions that may make you squirm in your seat or blush.”

2. Being nervous is normal…but you don’t need to be!

According to Dr. Pizarro, it’s all going to be okay. “It is normal to be nervous about going to the doctor, especially to address an issue as private and personal as reproductive health. Patients should not let this overwhelm them. There will be a female chaperone if a pelvic exam is needed, even if the clinician is a woman.” He continues, “Pelvic examination can cause patients to experience pressure, but it should not cause pain. You are in control of your health care, so if at any time during a visit to a doctor you are not comfortable, you should ask for the encounter to end.”

3. You don’t need to wax or shave before your appointment.

“Some women consider grooming their vaginas as part of their weekly or monthly beauty prep along with their mani-pedi and brow wax. It’s not necessary to shave or wax your vagina before getting a gynecologic exam,” Dr. Ross ensures. “Vaginal grooming is your personal choice. The main consideration on how to prepare for an exam is to simply be clean, so showering or using a vaginal hygiene wipe prior to your visit is suggested.”

4. You can bring someone with you, or you can have them wait outside. It’s up to you.

“It may help, if the patient chooses, to have one friend or family member present during the visit,” suggests Dr. Pizarro. “Some patients prefer for that person to stay for the examination, if one is indicated. I never ask a patient’s companion to leave, unless the patient requests that. Patients should feel in control and as comfortable as possible.”

5. Be prepared for honesty.

“Patients should prepare to be open and direct about their health, habits, sexual history, fears, and concerns,” says Dr. Pizarro. “Productive and effective health care only takes place when clear lines of communication and trust are established. The visit is private, and the topics discussed in the visit are protected by privacy laws.”

6. If you have your period, it’s a good idea to reschedule.

“Having your period and getting a gynecologic exam is not a good idea,” warns Dr. Ross. “If you have a pap smear during your period, blood can make the results inaccurate. Hormonal changes during your period can make a breast exam really uncomfortable and vaginal bleeding makes a pelvic exam messy. It’s best to reschedule your gynecologic exam if Aunt Flo pays you a visit.”

7. Drink some water before you show up — you’re going to pee in a cup.

“You will need to pee in a cup during your gynecologic exam. When you pee in a cup the gynecologist is able to perform a ‘dipstick’ test of your urine,” Dr. Ross says. “This simple office test can check to see if you have anything you may be unaware of happening in your body. Finding bacteria can suggest a bladder infection or finding sugar (glucose) may suggest you have diabetes.”

8. You don’t need to give a blood sample.

“The good news is if you are having a routine gynecologic exam, meaning you are not having any health problems, it is unlikely you will need to have your blood drawn,” says Dr. Ross. “If you are having irregular periods or want a complete sexually transmitted infection screening, a blood sample is likely.”

9. If you’re under 21, you don’t need a pelvic exam yet.

“Pap testing and routine pelvic exam are not indicated before age 21. So, unless a patient younger than 21 is having a specific problem, there may be no reason to see a gynecologist,” says Dr. Pizarro. “Problems that her pediatrician cannot address may require referral to a gynecologist, and Pap testing should probably not be part of that. After age 21, routine exams and Pap testing are indicated.”

10. You can get the birth control pill without having an internal exam.

“It is not necessary to undergo a vaginal examination to start hormonal contraception. A directed abdominal-pelvic exam can be considered — it does not require a genital exam and it will provide a great deal of important information,” says Dr. Pizarro. “The timing of when to start hormonal contraception depends: If periods are normal, then start soon after next normal period without a pregnancy test; but a negative pregnancy test will allow for contraception to start right away.”

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Related: 11 Things Every Girl Should Know About Sex and Sexual Assault in College

Check out Teen Vogue’s December/January issue cover star, Fernanda Ly.

I’ve never been to the gynecologist. What can I expect at my first visit?
The first time you see a new gyno, you’ll often meet in his or her office to talk. Your doc is going to want the scoop on your life before beginning the exam. ” should expect to be ready to be truthful about a lot of issues, including sexual activity, the number of partners she’s had, whether they were male or female, the age she first got her period, and when she became sexually active,” says Shari Brasner, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and a partner in a private practice. The gyno will want to know your family history and things that have affected your health and that of your parents and siblings. Think you may need to be tested for an STD? Bring that up now. Your gyno will discuss the Pap smear, appropriate testing for sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, as well as whether you need blood work to test for HIV, hepatitis C, or syphilis.

Then you will move into the exam room, where you will undress completely and put on a robe. Your gyno will do a head-to-toe exam, including possibly checking your neck for thyroid abnormalities, a breast exam, and then the pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, your doc will use one or two fingers inside the vagina and one hand on top of the belly, in the pubic region, to feel the internal organs. He or she may also use a speculum to hold the walls of your vagina apart to see the cervix and take specimens using swabs.

Total time? Approximately 20 minutes. Since that’s such a short amount of time, it’s wise to come prepared with a list of specific questions you want to ask. It’s very important not to leave the office without disclosing something important that could influence what kinds of tests the doc should perform. “I don’t want to finish my specimen collection and then find out that the patient suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her,” Brasner says.

What kinds of things should I talk to my gyno about?
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
These days, your gyno is going to talk to you about sexually transmitted infections even if you’re in a long-term, stable, monogamous relationship. That’s because so many of these infections are viruses that can be dormant or latent for many years. Plus an STIs like HPV can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

Aches and pains or concerns
Ask your doc about anything that’s of concern whenever you want, but be sure to tell her when something has happened a repeated number of times, Brasner says. Although there may be no need for an expensive workup, it’s important that the problem is addressed and monitored so both you and your doc can get a better idea of what’s going on down there. If you have an acute pain or urgent question, don’t hesitate to call. Many times the office will be able to screen over the phone the need for an immediate visit. For example, says Brasner, if someone has symptoms of a urinary tract infection, she shouldn’t wait an extra day. Speak with a doctor to see if a visit is necessary or if it’s something that can be handled on your own or over the phone.

Non-vaginal issues
Gynecologists sometimes take on the role of an overall women’s health expert, and some ladies see their gyno and no one else. “I talk to my patients about their sleep habits or exercise habits, because even though I may not be an expert in those fields, I have a network of colleagues I can refer my patients to,” says Brasner. Plus, more than any other kind of doctor, a gynecologist also deals the most with urinary problems. If you have a urinary issue, or suspect you have a urinary tract infection, call your gyno first.

How much info is too much to disclose about my sexual partners?
It is critical to discuss your sexual partners. “I need to know the health of the relationship, if you have suspicions of infidelity, if you have been unfaithful, and how many partners you have, and I need honest answers in terms of safe sex versus unsafe sex,” says Brasner. Your gyno appointment is not the time to feel embarrassed and withhold information. Remember, there’s nothing you can say that your doc hasn’t heard before. A gynecologist isn’t there to pass judgment, and you have to be willing to talk about things.

How will I know if my exam results are normal?
First, ask for feedback during any phase of the exam. “When I’m doing an exam, I may forget to let my patient know that her breast exam is completely normal. It’s absolutely fine for her to ask if everything feels right,” Brasner says. Also, clarify how the results from your exam will be communicated. Every office has its own policy. Sometimes you will be given a code to check online in a couple weeks, and sometimes you will be told that you’ll get a call from the office only if something showed up abnormal on your Pap or other tests.

Is there anything I shouldn’t ask or tell my gyno?
Don’t ask your gyno about your best friend’s health issues. Although you may be concerned about your pal, the time you have with your doctor is all about you, so you want to make the most of your time. Yes, your gyno will want to know if you have a lot of stress at work, but she can’t sit with you to discuss your awful boss. If you have other things you want to discuss that are not typical for a checkup, ask if it is appropriate to set up another appointment.

Do I have to get completely naked for the exam?
Actually, no. You can leave your socks on, Brasner says. It’s the one item of clothing you can feel free to wear in the chair, especially if your feet get cold. Other than that, it’s everything off. Your doc is most likely going to do a breast exam, so be sure to take your bra off too and avoid an awkward moment. And stop worrying about how you look, says Brasner. You don’t need to shave your legs or worry about making sure your lady parts are waxed. The gyno is down there for more important reasons.

How often do I need a pelvic exam and a Pap test?
Today’s doctors know more than ever about HPV and its link to an abnormal Pap smear. They’ve learned that young women do not have the same HPV risk that older women do, so the guidelines have relaxed in terms of the age of your first visit. However, since many ladies see only a gynecologist, it’s still important to have checkups. “I try to keep in mind that a lot of my patients don’t see other doctors and aren’t going to have any other face-to-face contact with a health-care professional if they don’t come to see me,” says Brasner.

There is a difference between how often you need a Pap smear and how often you need to visit the gyno. For younger women, Brasner recommends having a Pap every three years but going for a checkup every year to get the interaction or feedback from her about anything new, vagina-related or not.

Do I really have to go to a gynecologist for my problem? Can’t I just self-diagnose?
Self-diagnosis on the Internet is a double-edged sword, says Brasner. The Web has a wealth of information, but without the proper filters and or education to sort through symptoms, it may be difficult to separate fact from fiction. “The Internet will walk a patient down the path of the worst-case scenario, so the patient will assume she has an awful problem when it is really a mild issue,” says Brasner.

But if you’re going to use over-the-counter products without consulting your gyno, Brasner has a few tips. Anything that’s heavily cosmetic—such as lotions, potions, and perfumed sprays—is no good. If you have an itch, buy an OTC product that is free of parabens and alcohol. If you really don’t know what to buy, call your gyno, who will be able to recommend the right OTC products.

Is it normal to have a sonogram at the gyno if I’m not pregnant?
Sonograms are used for nonpregnant women only if something in their medical history or physical indicates an abnormality. If you have no history of cysts or health issues, consult your insurance company before agreeing to a sonogram from your doc. They can be quite expensive and can sometimes produce false positives, requiring the need for further testing, says Brasner.

I just moved to a new area. What should I look for in a doctor, and how can I find a good one?
Ask around. Your peers are a great resource to start with, because most of the time, they have similar needs as you. For example, your coworkers may have similar insurance policies and will know how to find a local gyno who is on your plan.

The big debate: Would you feel more comfortable with a male or female gyno? Back in the day, patients didn’t have much of an option because most gynos were men. Plenty of women still see male doctors, and every doctor is required to have a nurse in the room during the exam, so you should feel safe with either sex.

Do some research. Find out if your new doc is board certified and if he or she is affiliated with a hospital. This may not seem important to you now, but it’s good to know. If you ever need to be hospitalized or if you are planning on having a baby, you’ll want to be familiar with the hospital where your gyno works. Determine how many doctors are in the practice and if your preferred gyno is there part time or full time. And inquire about office hours, what days the practice is open, and if special appointment times (such as early morning or evening) are available.

6 Common Phases You Go Through At The OBGYN Office And On A First Date

You’re counting down the hours until the big day. What should you wear? What time should you shower? Do you have to shave? Yes, of course you have to shave!

No, ladies, you’re not getting ready for your first date. You’re getting ready for your annual gynecologist appointment.

Every year, before I skip along to my doctor’s office, I realize I am just as frantic about going to my doctor as I was when I had my first date with my boyfriend. But, for some reason, I find that getting ready for my gyno is 10 times harder than getting ready for any first date I’ve ever had.

This is because I have to impress this lady who peeks in to my vagina and smiles.

Below are the six shared phases of a first date and a gynecologist appointment:

Phase 1: “WTF should I wear?”

“Should I wear a dress or pants? Whatever is easiest to slip off I guess.”

Seriously, though, should I wear a f*cking dress? I have to get naked, anyway. And after I get naked, I have to shiver in that cold room until my doctor comes in and drills me with questions.

Phase 2: The Waiting Game

Waiting is the worst part of anything you do. I, for one, am not a patient person and you probably aren’t, either.

There are three types of waiting that will one day give me a heart attack: waiting for my food to come at a restaurant, waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up for a hot date and waiting for the nurse to call me in to the gynecologist room.

I can’t choose which is worse. It’s probably waiting for my food, but you get the point.

Phase 3: The Awkward Questions

I don’t like being asked questions, but I get it: The doctor needs to know what I’ve been doing the past year.

“Do you have kids?” “Are you married?” “Are you in a relationship?” “Do you smoke?” “Have you ever had sex?” “How many people have you had sex with?” “What do you do for fun on the weekends?”

“What is your father’s health like?” “Does your mom have high blood pressure?” “Do you exercise?” “What do you eat on a daily basis?” “Do you drink?” “How many drinks do you have in one week?”

Luckily, after you finish the awkward questions phase, you tend to loosen up. I mean, you have to, considering you are about to get naked.

If you were allowed to drink at the doctor’s office, you would. Wait, why isn’t that a thing? Last I heard, wine is healthy for you.

Phase 4: Goodbye, clothes.

Okay, you’re not about to bang your doctor or get naked after things were going smoothly on your date, but at least you know you have to get naked for your gynecologist before going into the appointment.

That’s why you shaved, remember?

There is nothing worse than that cold speculum being jammed up in you. And no, that will never ever get easier as your vagina gets older.

Phase 5: Walk Of Shame

Now, it’s time to take your ass home! Clearly, after you get naked, you have to put those clothes back on and sneak away.

Ah, just like college. The memories are truly unbearable.

The best part about the gynecologist is that the walk of shame shouldn’t make you feel bad. It should make you feel proud because you finally did something mature, like make an appointment all by yourself and pay the co-pay from your own account, not your mother’s.

Phase 6: Waiting Game 2.0

If you thought waiting for your appointment was bad, think again. Now you have to wait two weeks for that pap smear to come back, and for your doctor to call and give you those results.

It’s just like waiting for your crush to call you after your first date to tell you he had fun, when he probably didn’t because all you talked about was how much you love dogs and Taco Bell.

At this point, you can only think the worst: “Is my vagina okay? It’s been a day, and I haven’t heard from her.” “Dammit, I should’ve never gotten hammered that one night.” “Okay, week one is over. I am sure everything is fine; she’s just busy. Yeah, she’s busy.”

“Now, week two is underway. Something is wrong with my vagina. I can’t have babies. That’s it. I’m done for.”

*Phone rings after your brain goes crazy*

Everything is fine, finally. Back to getting hammered every weekend!

Luckily, the gynecologist will always call you back. Just remember: Impressing your OBGYN is more important than that first date. Get up, shower, shave and look good. Your doctor knows what your vagina did last summer.

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Being the wife of an OB/GYN I’ve heard some things.

Way too many things…some sad, some happy and a boatload of really weird, bizarre and wacky, gross, disgusting things.

Many of which I absolutely would NEVER repeat. You would never believe me anyway.

But from my unique perspective I feel I have some invaluable information to pass on to the rest of the world about what you should know or do to prepare for your next visit to the doc down under.

This very useful information is in no way meant to freak or gross you out. Just a simple public service announcement I hope you find helpful.

If you are a man reading this, before you twitch and pass out, simply pass this information on to that special someone who will appreciate you for thinking of them.

1. Foot odor is worse than bum odor. Now what do I mean here. Well ladies, let’s face it, we prepare our bottoms so diligently for the visit; washing, soaking, buffing, puffing and fluffing. Then we put on our old, closed-up, stinky shoes while barefoot. By the time your feet get in those stir-ups the stench can mirror that of a dead animal. Remember, your docs face is right next to your feet. Next time, wear flip-flops to your visit, the world will be a better place.

2. Remove all toilet paper wads. We all take that last potty break before the dreaded exam. However, what happens is that we are so concerned about wiping ourselves so meticulously that wads and wads of tiny toilet paper balls are left behind on our bottom. These wads must be removed before your exam begins. They must! Of course you would never know that this waste removal process is going on down there because your doctor is not going to tell you! But believe me that’s what they are doing before the exam officially begins. If there is any lull between lying down and the exam starting, you know you are being de-wadded. You don’t want to be remembered this way. You really don’t.

3. Pedicures are priceless. While your doc is asking you to scoot your bottom down to the end of the table (you know what I’m talking about) and it feels like you are scooting to the end of the earth…your doctor is looking at your pedicure. Don’t go with your cracked up nails and your unshaven big toes. This is all they have to look at. Believe me your doc is NOT looking at your privates at this point. For a gynecologist, looking at privates is like looking at an elbow. Boring. Yawn. They’ve seen them all, but the feet are interesting so take pride in your toes before you go. If you wear socks they know you’re hiding something.

4. Breast-jam is worse than toe-jam. Girls please, the breast exam is awkward enough. I mean there is nothing worse than making small talk with your doctor while they examine your breasts. I think it’s worse than the other unmentionable exam because you have to look them straight in the eye while they look and touch our saggy messes. But do not make it more horrific by not cleaning any accumulation of grit and sludge that may be hidden in the under the breast area. Remember your doc is not wearing gloves at this point so don’t gross them out.

5. Remove all piercings down there! You would think this is common sense but apparently it’s not. Your doctor doesn’t want to see it. No matter how cool you think it is, they don’t. I promise you. Girls, especially if you are going to surgery, or having a baby for God’s sake, TAKE THEM OUT! They make you remove all jewelry before an operation why would you think this does not fall under that realm.

Okay, numbers 6 thru 10 are so gross I can’t even write about them. I can’t. They are too horrible. Trust me.

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Pelvic Exams

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What Is a Pelvic Exam?

A pelvic exam is where a doctor or nurse practitioner looks at a girl’s reproductive organs (both outside and internally). This includes feeling a girl’s uterus and ovaries to be sure everything’s normal.

Teens don’t usually get pelvic exams. Sometimes doctors do pelvic exams if they think there’s a problem. For example, if a girl complains of heavy bleeding, missed periods, or discharge, the doctor will want to check for a cause. Otherwise, doctors don’t recommend regular pelvic exams or Pap smears until a woman is 21 years old.

What Happens During a Pelvic Exam?

A medical assistant or nurse will give you a robe to wear and a sheet to cover you. You’ll be left alone to undress — either fully (if you’re getting a breast exam as well) or from the waist down.

The doctor or nurse practitioner will come into the room and talk a bit about what to expect and why they’re doing the exam. Then, you’ll lie on the table so your behind is at the end of the table. You’ll bend your knees and rest your feet in two stirrups, which are metal triangular loops that stick out from the end of the table. These might look a little scary, but they’re just there to rest your feet in and keep you more comfortable.

The doctor will ask you to relax your knees out to the sides as far as they will go. It might feel a little funny to be lying with your legs opened like this, but everyone feels that way at first.

The doctor will put on gloves and examine the outside of your vagina to make sure that there are no sores or swelling and that everything looks OK on the outside.

The Internal Exam

The doctor will want to look at the inside of your vagina. She or he will use a speculum to gently widen the vagina. A speculum is a thin piece of plastic or metal with a hinged piece on one end that allows it to open and close. If the speculum is metal, the doctor or nurse will warm it to make it more comfortable. The doctor or nurse will let you know just before putting the speculum in your vagina.

Once the speculum is in place, the doctor or nurse will gently open it up. Putting in and opening the speculum shouldn’t hurt. But some women say that it can cause a bit of pressure and discomfort.

Because the vagina is surrounded by muscles that can contract or relax, the exam can be more comfortable if you relax the muscles in that area. Try doing some breathing exercises or focusing on relaxing the vaginal muscles. Sometimes humming your favorite song or chatting to the doctor or nurse can distract you and help you feel more relaxed.

After the speculum is in place, the doctor or nurse practitioner will shine a light inside the vagina to look for anything unusual, like redness, swelling, discharge, or sores. The doctor may quickly wipe a cotton swab inside the vagina to collect a sample of mucus in order to test for infection, if necessary. The doctor or nurse will slide the speculum out as soon as the exam is done. This part of the exam only takes a minute or two.

The ovaries and uterus are so far inside a girl’s body that they can’t be seen — even using a speculum. The doctor or nurse will need to feel them to be sure they’re the right size and free of cysts or other growths.

For this part of the exam, you’ll keep your feet in the stirrups. The doctor or nurse will put lubricant on two fingers (still wearing the gloves) and slide them inside your vagina. Using the other hand, he or she will press on the outside of your lower abdomen (the area between your vagina and your stomach). You may feel a little pressure or discomfort. Again, it can help to relax your muscles and take slow, deep breaths.

The entire pelvic exam takes about 3 to 5 minutes.

Making the Appointment

It’s best to schedule the exam for a time when you won’t have your period, but that can be hard to predict because lots of girls have irregular periods at first. When you make the appointment, ask what to do if you get your period when you’re supposed to come for your exam. Most doctors say it’s OK to come for an exam during your period, so don’t worry about that at all.

Your first pelvic exam can be a bit of a shock, but it helps to remember that each time it gets easier and easier to relax. No one loves the exam, but having a doctor or nurse practitioner you trust can really help.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD Date reviewed: October 2017

In This Section

  • Wellness Visit
  • What do I need to know before I go in?
  • What is a pelvic exam?

When you turn 21, a pelvic exam is a regular part of your wellness visit. A pelvic exam is a normal part of taking care of your body. It only takes a few minutes and it doesn’t hurt.

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Need a pelvic exam?

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When should I get my first pelvic exam?

Unless you have a medical problem, you can wait to make an appointment for your first wellness visit (which is when routine pelvic exams are done) when you turn 21.

What happens during a pelvic exam?

During a pelvic exam, a doctor or nurse examines your vulva and your internal reproductive organs — your vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus.

If you think you might have an STD, another kind of infection (like a yeast infection), or any other issue with your reproductive health, let your doctor or nurse know at the beginning of your appointment. They’ll talk with you and decide if they need to do any special tests or exams.

In general here’s what happens at a pelvic exam.

First, they’ll give you a few minutes of privacy to undress and put on a paper or cloth gown. Then they’ll come back in and ask you to lie down on the exam table and put your legs up on footrests or knee-rests.

Slide your hips down to the edge of the table. Let your knees spread out wide. Don’t worry — your doctor will talk you through all this. Try to relax your butt, stomach and vaginal muscles as much as possible. This will make you more comfortable.

There are usually 3 or 4 parts to a pelvic exam:

1. The external exam — Your doctor or nurse will look at your vulva and the opening of your vagina. They’re checking for signs of cysts, abnormal discharge, genital warts, irritation, or other issues.

2. The speculum exam — Your doctor will gently slide a speculum into your vagina. The speculum is made of metal or plastic. It separates the walls of your vagina when it opens. This may feel uncomfortable or weird, but it shouldn’t hurt. Let your doctor know if it does hurt, because they may be able to fix the size or position of the speculum.

If you’d like to see your cervix, just ask. You may be able to see it using a mirror.

Your doctor will then use a tiny spatula or brush to wipe a small sample of cells from your cervix. This sample will be sent to a lab for a Pap test to see if there is any pre-cancer or cancer in your cervix.

If your doctor or nurse is testing you for STDs (like chlamydia or gonorrhea) or other infections, they’ll use a cotton swab to take a sample of the discharge from your cervix. This sample will be tested.

3. The bimanual exam — During this part of the exam, your doctor or nurse will put 1 or 2 gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina while gently pressing on your lower abdomen with their other hand. This is a way to check for

  • the size, shape, and position of your uterus
  • tenderness or pain — which might mean infection or another condition

  • enlarged ovaries, fallopian tubes, ovarian cysts, or tumors

4. The rectovaginal exam — Your doctor or nurse may also put a gloved finger into your rectum. This checks the muscles between your vagina and your anus. This also checks for tumors behind your uterus, on the lower wall of your vagina, or in your rectum. Some doctors put another finger in your vagina while they do this. This lets them examine the tissue in between more thoroughly.

You may feel like you need to poop during this part of the exam. Don’t worry, you won’t. This is totally normal and only lasts a few seconds.

What does a pelvic exam feel like?

Your pelvic exam will only take a few minutes. Some parts of the exam may be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. If it hurts, say something. Your doctor or nurse may be able to make things more comfortable. This exam is for you, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

You’ll feel less tense during your pelvic exam if you

  • Breathe slowly and deeply.

  • Let your stomach muscles go soft.

  • Relax your shoulders.

  • Relax the muscles between your legs.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse to describe what’s happening.

How often do I need to get a pelvic exam?

It depends. After your first pelvic exam, your doctor or nurse will tell you when you need to come back. It’ll depend on your medical history and whether you have any health issues.

You may need more frequent pelvic exams if you have

  • a history of abnormal Pap test results

  • a history of sexual health problems

  • a family history of certain kinds of cancer

  • an STD or a sex partner with an infection

  • recurrent vaginitis

More questions from patients:

What’s a speculum pelvic exam?

During a pelvic exam, a doctor or nurse checks your vulva and your inside reproductive organs — your vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus.

Using a speculum is one part of a pelvic exam — it’s an instrument that gently opens your vagina so the doctor can see inside. Speculums also help the nurse or doctor reach your cervix so they can do Pap tests and tests for other infections (like STDs).

Your doctor will put lubricant on the speculum, and then gently slide the speculum into your vagina. The speculum opens a little bit to separate the walls of your vagina. Speculum exams may feel weird or a little uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt at all for most people.

If you have any questions or concerns about pelvic exams or speculums, talk with your nurse or doctor. If you’re really nervous or worried about pain, tell them. They’ll do everything they can to make your exam more comfortable.

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Your First Gynecologist Appointment

What to Expect at a Gynecologist Appointment

When you arrive at the doctor’s office for the OB visit, you will most likely start by filling out paperwork about yourself for the staff and doctor. Later, the nurse who takes you back to the exam room might ask some of the same questions. Remember, all your answers are confidential. That means they cannot be shared with anyone unless you give permission.

The paperwork you fill out and the discussion with the nurse or doctor could include the following questions:

  • Why you scheduled the gynecologist appointment
  • Your family health history
  • Your personal health history
  • Medications, vitamins, or supplements you are taking
  • Any surgery you’ve had
  • Whether you are sexually active
  • Your age when you started having menstrual periods and when your most recent period occurred
  • Whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs
  • The name of your primary care doctor or family doctor
  • The name and contact information of someone to call in case of an emergency

If your parents or someone who has known you and your family a long time isn’t going to be with you to fill out this paperwork, you might want to do some research ahead of time and ask about health history, both yours and your family’s. Find out if close relatives have had heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, or other types of chronic conditions, such as diabetes. (If you are going by yourself to the doctor, make sure that you also have any needed information about your family’s health insurance, co-pays, or payment plans.)

At your OB visit, you’ll probably spend time with a nurse first and then with an ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist), a doctor who specializes in the care of a woman’s reproductive system, including vagina and uterus as well as the breasts (the gynecologist part) and who monitors pregnancies and delivers babies (the obstetrician part). An ob-gyn cares for a woman throughout her lifespan, starting with the first appointment. Dr. Trent points out that your pediatrician or family doctor might also be able to perform your first gynecological exam.

Your first appointment will probably include a discussion with the nurse and the doctor about your health and any concerns you might have. This is a good time for you to ask them what to expect from the exams – the physical exam and, if you agree to it and need it, the pelvic and vaginal exam. These exams might include testing for sexually transmitted diseases if you are sexually active.

About OB Visit Exams

From the patient’s point of view, the most worrisome part of a gynecologist appointment is usually the physical exams. You might be asked to take off your clothes and wear a special robe or gown. A nurse will probably be present in the room during the exams. You can ask for a friend or relative to be with you, too. Girls often bring their mother with them, sometimes to hold hands with, during the exam, Trent says.

There are several basic exams that you might have during an OB visit:

  • Physical exam. The nurse will take your weight, pulse, and blood pressure. If you have other health concerns, the doctor might address them at this time.
  • Breast exam. The doctor may do an exam of your breasts. You may be asked to raise and lower your arms as the doctor gently palpates your breast tissue and nipples.
  • External genital exam. The doctor may ask you to lie down and put your legs up in special stirrups and look at the outside of your genital area to determine that you’ve gone through puberty and that your development is normal, explains Trent.
  • Pelvic exam. This exam might not be part of your first gynecologist appointment, particularly if you are not sexually active. In a pelvic exam, the doctor will look inside your vagina using an instrument called a speculum. She might also use long cotton swabs to collect samples of cells and mucus to test for infection and as part of a Pap smear, a test for cervical cancer. After she removes the speculum, she might check the position of your uterus, vagina, and ovaries with her gloved hands.

A Time for Your Questions

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls have their first visit between the ages of 13 and 15. One of the best reasons to meet with your ob-gyn is to ask any questions you have about your body and your sexual and reproductive health.

During this visit, ask about the exams and tests you will have done and who will call you with the results. “How can I keep myself healthy before I see you again?” is another important question. “No question is inappropriate, no question is stupid,” says Trent, who adds that questions about menstruation are among the most commonly asked.

Going to your first gynecologist appointment may give you butterflies, but starting a habit that provides a foundation for a lifetime of health is one of the smartest steps a young woman can take.

What to Expect at a Gynecologist Visit

Not sure what to expect at a gynecologist visit? Let’s break it down step–by–step:

1. Scheduling the Appointment: You don’t need a specific reason to schedule your first appointment with a gynecologist. If you’ve got a vagina, that’s reason enough. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that women start seeing a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. However, there’s no need for a pelvic exam or pap smear until you turn 21 or become sexually active. Many gynecologists are only able to book appointments weeks or months in advance, so don’t wait for something to go wrong before you schedule a visit. Gynecologists help track your reproductive health, and are key to treating medical issues as they or even before they arrive. It’s as important to see a gynecologist every year as it is to get your regular physical from a doctor.

2. Preparing for the Appointment: There are a few things you should do to prepare for your visit to the gynecologist, and none of them involve grooming your pubic hair in any specific way. Gynecologists have seen it all, and pubic hair won’t make a difference in assessing your reproductive health. Blood can make a difference in assessing your reproductive health, so make sure to schedule your gynecologist appointment for a day when you aren’t on your period. For the two days leading up to the visit, refrain from having sex, using a tampon, or using any vaginal lubricants or cleansers. This will help you get the most accurate results from your gynecologist. You should also come prepared knowing your medical history, sexual history, and recent menstrual history. If it’s hard for you to recall all of this information on the spot, spend some time writing it down beforehand. You should also ask your family about any diseases or medical disorders that run in the family, as these can impact your risk levels of developing certain conditions. Also remember that you can bring a friend or family member with you to your appointment if you’re really nervous, so make sure to plan with them ahead of time.

3. The Appointment (Four Parts):

Talking / External Exam: The first part of your gynecologist appointment will go much like any other doctor’s appointment. Your gynecologist will take some basic medical information and talk through your health history before leaving the room and giving you a hospital gown. Then it’s time for the stirrups: you’ll scoot your butt to the edge of the examining table with your feet in the stirrups so your gynecologist can get a good look at the exterior of your vagina. They’ll be investigating for things like warts, cuts, and abnormal hair growth. Make sure you are completely honest with your gynecologist about your health history, as this will affect your treatment. Your gynecologist is required by law to protect the privacy of your information, even from your parents. Further, you can’t treat any problems you hide from your doctor, so get your money and time’s worth out of your appointment by being as honest as you can. As difficult as it can be to open up about sex and menstruation, it’s your gynecologist’s job to talk about these things—your most embarrassing questions are their everyday job!

Speculum Exam: The speculum is a duck-billed device that is lubricated and inserted about ⅔ of the way into the vagina to help gynecologists examine the cervix. For many women, the speculum is the most uncomfortable aspect of a gyno appointment. The speculum holds the vagina open, which can produce discomfort in some women, typically in the form of pressure. However, the speculum will only remain inserted for about one minute, so this discomfort should be brief, if you feel it at all. If you’re really worried about the speculum being painful, you can ask your gynecologist to use the smallest speculum available. If you’re sexually active or 21 and older, your gynecologist will likely perform a pap smear, an exam that tests for cell abnormalities in the cervix. To conduct the pap smear, your doctor will swab cells from inside of your cervix while the speculum is inserted.

I’m Nervous About Scheduling My First Gynecology Visit

August 9, 2016 10:16 am Published by Meenakshi Jain, M.D., FACOG

First Gynecology Visit

If you’re scheduling your first gynecology visit and are anxious or curious about what you will experience, you aren’t alone. Many girls and women have a lot of questions when it comes to seeing a gynecologist. and when they should schedule an appointment.

What Does a Gynecologist Do?

It’s normal to be a little worried about your first OBGYN appointment.

A gynecologist is a medical doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health, including the uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, vagina and vulva. Your doctor can detect problems before they arise and answer any questions you have about your reproductive health. Gynecologists often treat conditions or problems about menstruation, contraception, sexual health, and menopause. Most gynecologists also specialize in obstetrics, including pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

When Should I Start Seeing a Gynecologist?

If you are over the age of 21, are sexually active, or have a concern you’d like to discuss with your doctor, you should schedule a gynecology visit. Having problems with your period, needing your annual pelvic exam, or having questions about birth control are common reasons women schedule an appointment with their gynecologist.

What Happens During an Gynecological Examination?

Generally, gynecology exams are routine checkups, just like they were at a pediatrician or primary care physician’s office, just highly tailored to your health as a woman.

  • Pelvic Exam
    • A pelvic exam is when the gynecologist examines the outside of your genitals, in addition to looking inside or examining the vagina, ovaries, and/or uterus. This is to check for any abnormalities, test for any pains, check for bodily changes, and more.
  • Pap Test
    • A pap smear, or pap test, checks the cervix for abnormal cells which can signal conditions like cervical cancer. Your gynecologist will take a few cells from your cervix to test. A pap test should be done at least every 3 years after the age of 21 or after becoming sexually active.
  • Breast Exam
    • A clinical breast exam will also be done to check for any abnormalities, like a lump, to detect breast cancer.
  • In-Office Procedures or Surgeries
    • Dr. Meenakshi Jain offers many in-office procedures and surgeries for Cosmetics and Gynecology in her Saint Petersburg, FL office.
  • Regular physical
    • Some gynecologists will also perform regular physicals, some may not. It is important to understand what your gynecologist offers. Meenakshi Jain MD offers Gynecological Services and Cosmetic Gynecology.

Questions for your Gynecologist

During your gynecology visit, it’s also a good time to ask any questions or bring up any and all problems you are experiencing. If you have missed your period, are having painful or heavy periods, or are experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge; these are all things that you should bring this up during your gynecological appointment.

To learn more about scheduling your first appointment with Dr. Meenakshi Jain! Call (727) 343-2568 today or request an appointment online!

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