If you’ve never been to a gynecologist, the prospect of that first visit can be intimidating. However, knowing when to go and what to expect can help alleviate some of that anxiety.
The first thing you need to know is that there is no specific age that applies to everyone. Medical and sexual history varies from one woman to the next, and those factors are relevant in determining when to schedule that first appointment. To make it easier to decide when it’s time to go, consider the following:
How Do I Know When I Need My First Gynecological Exam?
1. Sexual Activity
While the age range varies greatly, statistics are consistent in reporting that many teenagers are sexually active. Taking this into account, it’s crucial to learn as much as possible about safe sex and ways to prevent and/or treat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Do not put this on the back burner, since leaving certain STDs untreated could lead to ovarian or cervical cancer. In addition, if a woman is pregnant, she could transmit the disease to the unborn child.
Besides treating an STD, a gynecologist can also help one cope with the emotional component of living with a sexually transmitted illness, by connecting them with support groups.
If you’re fortunate and fully healthy, your gynecologist can teach you how to stay that way.
2. Sexual Assault
Being sexually assaulted can leave one feeling shocked, depressed, in denial, and/or embarrassed. First things first: It is never your fault. It doesn’t matter what you wore. It doesn’t matter what you said. It doesn’t matter if you flirted with the person and then changed your mind. It doesn’t matter if the assailant is your friend or significant other.
It’s also important to know that even though the event can make you feel isolated, unfortunately, one out of every five women have experienced or will experience sexual assault. Getting medical attention as soon as possible is important to screen for STDs and pregnancy, and to receive the care you need.
Even if you want to keep it a secret, it’s crucial to see the gynecologist. Let your doctor know about your experience so that they can be mindful of what you’re going through and, if you would like, put you in contact with a counselor.
3. Unusual Vaginal Discharge
All women have discharge. Healthy discharge is clear and odorless. If you’ve noticed yellow or green discharge or a foul odor, you likely have an infection. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and could cause further damage to your health. Also, keep in mind that no matter how embarrassing it may be to talk about, gynecologists have seen it all, so they won’t be shocked, or grossed out, and they won’t judge you. They are simply there to help.
4. Missed Period
Don’t chalk it up to stress, thinking you’re overreacting, or wait it out. Also, don’t think that because you’ve been using birth control, there’s no way you could be pregnant. (1) Birth control is not fail-proof, and (2) to get 98% protection, you have to use it correctly, which sometimes, people fail to do. Condoms can break or be used past their expiration date. Women can forget to take the Pill. Pulling out doesn’t work. See the gynecologist to either confirm or rule out pregnancy.
5. Unusual Changes
This includes changes in menstrual flow, premenstrual symptoms (PMS), vaginal discharge, cramps, or pain that radiates to your back when you’re “PMS-ing”. Also schedule an appointment if your menstrual cramps are so severe, they are disrupting your everyday activities and you’re skipping school or work because of it.
What Can I Expect During My First Gynecological Exam?
Once you schedule your appointment, you can expect the following:
- When you arrive, you’ll fill out paperwork regarding your medical history, sexual history, your family’s medical history, as well as your reproductive health and whether you’re planning to start a family soon.
- You’ll then be weighed, and a medical assistant or nurse will take your blood pressure. Next you’ll be escorted to the exam room, where you will be left alone to remove all of your clothes and put on a robe.
- You’ll sit on the exam table and when the doctor comes in you’ll have some time to talk. The doctor will have reviewed your paperwork so this is a good time to discuss any concerns you have about your medical history or symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Typically, a nurse will be called in, and present during the exam.
- For the exam, you’ll lay back on the table and place your feet onto stirrups. These are two metal attachments specifically designed to make it easier for your doctor to do the internal exam.
- The gynecologist will insert a tool called a speculum into the vagina. This doesn’t hurt but sometimes it’s cold. The purpose of this tool is to open the vaginal canal a bit to make the exam easier.
- The doctor will take a sample of vaginal fluid to send to a lab for screening. The speculum will be removed and the doctor will insert two fingers into the vagina and press down on your lower abdomen with their other hand to feel for cysts or anything abnormal and to find out if you have pain with the pressure on your abdomen.
- Then there will be a breast exam. You’ll be asked to put an arm behind your head, while the doctor palpates each breast, feeling for any unusual lumps.
- Each exam will only take a minute or two.
- If the lab results are concerning, you will be contacted for a follow up appointment to discuss the findings and next steps. If the results are normal, you will likely be notified by mail.
If you need an appointment with a gynecologist, let us help you.
At St. Hope, we foster a trusting patient/medical provider relationship to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors feels comfortable and receives the care they deserve.
We take same-day appointments, accept all insurance plans, and welcome walk-ins. Call us at (713) 778-1300 or visit us at 6800 West Loop South, Suite 560, Bellaire, TX 77401.