It’s completely normal to feel intimidated or uncomfortable when you see an OB/GYN for the first time. Letting a complete stranger examine you and discuss sensitive, personal health topics can seem foreign and scary. However, it doesn’t have to be when you know what to expect!
Routine OB/GYN check ups are essential for maintaining your sexual and reproductive health. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls have their first OB/GYN appointment between the age of 13-15 and continue with annual wellness visits after that.
Here’s how to prepare for your first exam so you can leave feeling confident, empowered, and comfortable about your sexual and reproductive health.
Before The Appointment
Remember that you have full control over your health and can be picky as you try to find a caregiver that’s a good fit for you. For example, consider if you’re more comfortable with a male or female doctor and do your research to find one you like.
The day of your appointment, shower normally with soap and water and dress comfortably. Don’t worry about how you look or how you’re groomed. Remember, the doctor won’t be judging. Their purpose is to evaluate medically and professionally.
On your period? Don’t stress about that either! While you might feel embarrassed, it’s completely normal and most examinations can still be performed without any issues.
You can also bring a parent or close friend with you to your first appointment if it helps you feel more at ease.
It’s also important to be ready with a list of questions to discuss with your doctor. Have a clear purpose in your mind about the reason for your visit so you can be a better advocate for yourself and bring up any concerns you have. Most doctors schedule 20-30 minutes for each appointment so prepare before and get the most out of your time.
Your list could potentially include topics like pain, cramps, heavy bleeding, irregular periods, mood changes, birth control options, or testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Be prepared to talk about your menstrual cycle, your sex life, and your medical history. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest. Also, remember that your doctor won’t judge you and keeps everything confidential.
It’s also important to come with a list of any medications you’re on, past surgeries, and any significant family health history like blood clots, diabetes, or cancer.
The Appointment And Exam
Most doctors do a general physical exam of your height, weight, and blood pressure. They might additionally ask for a blood or urine sample.
If you’re under 21, you most likely won’t have a pelvic exam or Pap smear during your first visit. However, it’s more likely if you’re sexually active, have abnormal or painful periods, or want STI testing. If you’re 21 or older, a pelvic exam and Pap test are recommended each year.
Here’s what you can expect to experience during each type of exam at your first visit.
Young women are at a low risk for breast cancer. However, your doctor may still conduct a breast exam and give you tips on how to do your own self exam. They also often teach how to identify any abnormal changes in your breasts.
A Pap test (or Pap smear) is when the doctor swabs the lower portion of your uterus that connects to your vagina, the cervix, to collect a small sample of cervical cells. This sample is used to check for abnormalities that could indicate cervical cancer, which is rare and often treatable.
A pelvic exam consists of three parts. First, your doctor will conduct an external genital exam of your vulva. The vulva consists of everything you can see on the outside of your body, the labia, clitoris, and opening of the vagina. If you’d like to, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a mirror so you can see what’s going on and ask questions about the name, location, and function of each part.
Next, the doctor may use a speculum to examine your vagina and cervix. This is when he/she will take samples for a Pap test and certain STIs. If this part of the exam is uncomfortable or painful, let your doctor know so they can use a smaller speculum. And don’t worry, this part of the exam is usually over in a minute or less.
Lastly, your doctor will conduct a bimanual exam of your reproductive organs. He/she places one hand on your lower abdomen, and with the other, insert one or two gloved fingers into your vagina to feel your uterus and ovaries. Again, it is over quickly and only takes about a minute or less.
Vaccines And Medications
If you haven’t received your human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, talk to your doctor. This vaccine protects against cervix, vagina, and vulva cancers that are caused by an HPV infection.
Your doctor may also prescribe you some medication. Birth control can help with conditions like endometriosis which causes painful, heavy periods and difficulty getting pregnant. It can also help with polycystic ovarian syndrome which affects female hormone levels, causes missed periods, and infertility.
These conditions are treatable—often with positive outcomes. So don’t be worried or afraid to ask your doctor whatever questions come to mind.
After The Appointment
If any tests were conducted during your appointment, you may get a follow-up call or email from your doctor’s office with the results. In some cases, you may be asked to come back in for a follow up appointment.
It is also be a good idea to schedule your next appointment or yearly physical before you leave.
Cache Valley Women’s Center at the Lodge in Logan can help make your first OB/GYN appointment a positive, empowering, encouraging experience! Contact us today to schedule your appointment.