Though gynecologists treat women at any age, it’s recommended that you start visiting from the age of 13 to 15 years. Building a relationship with your doctor can help you feel more comfortable asking health-related questions. Some people still aren’t sure how to prepare for their gynecology appointments, though.
Here are a few tips that can help you feel more comfortable about your upcoming check-up. With this gynecology guide, you can also prepare questions to ask during your appointment.
Read on to learn more!
Consider Why You’re Going
Before your first appointment at a gynecologist’s office, consider why you’re going in the first place. Outlining your needs will help ensure you ask the right questions. You can make the most of your time and the doctor’s during your upcoming appointment.
For example, you might consider asking about:
- Birth control options
- Period or hormonal changes/issues
- Testing for sexually transmitted diseases
One of the reasons people feel anxious about appointments is that they don’t know what to expect. Avoiding the gynecologist could foster even more avoidance in the future.
Routine exams can help your doctor catch potential problems early on. For example, perhaps there are abnormal cells on your cervix. Treatment is easier when these cells are precancerous.
You might have a serious health problem without realizing it, too. For example, heavy bleeding or a polyp in the pelvic area could require treatment. Regular appointments ensure you and the doctor don’t miss anything that might require immediate attention.
Exams also ensure preventative care (particularly for patients ages 26 and younger). For example, your doctor might recommend a vaccine to prevent health problems like vulvar or vaginal warts. Otherwise, these problems might require more extensive exams and treatments in the future.
Once you determine why you’re going, draft a list of questions you want to ask ahead of time.
Feel free to ask questions about what to expect during the appointment, too. For example, you might ask what a pelvic exam entails and why it’s needed. Asking these questions can help you feel more comfortable once you know what to expect.
Know Your History
Before your gynecology appointment, consider talking to a family member about your family’s medical history. Your doctor will ask questions about your family’s medical history to determine if you require preventative care.
Start by asking your mother about her health history and ask if any conditions run in the family. For example, you can ask if your family has a history of blood clots. If blood clots run in your family, your doctor might recommend contraceptive alternatives that contain estrogen.
Consider drafting a list of your own medical history details as well. For example, your doctor will need to know of past surgeries or any medications you’re currently taking.
If you have medical records, bring them with you to the appointment.
Make sure to track your menstrual cycle before your appointment, too. Your doctor will ask about the first day of your last period. You can use a tracking app on your phone to keep track of dates, flow, and other details.
Preparing for Pelvic Exams
The percentage of women who have received a pelvic exam in the past 12 months has decreased over time. A pelvic exam will help your doctor determine if both your ovaries and uterus are healthy. If you’re nervous about pelvic exams, it can help to know what to expect before your appointment.
Let your doctor know ahead of time if you’re nervous. They likely have a few relaxation methods that can help. They’ll know how to make the exam more comfortable for you, too.
For example, deep breathing exercises can help you relax. Deep breathing could also help relax your pelvic muscles, which will make the exam faster and easier.
Usually, a pelvic exam involves an external exam to review the vulva (the labia, clitoris, and opening of the vagina). Your doctor will complete the cervical and vaginal exam using a speculum (a device that’s inserted into the vagina). Then, they’ll complete a bimanual exam of your reproductive organs.
You have control over the exam. Your doctor will only complete an exam if you’re 100% comfortable. If there are parts of the appointment you want to skip, let your doctor know.
They might have an alternate way to examine you.
Remain Open and Honest
During the appointment, remain open and honest with your gynecologist. The information you provide will help them address any concerns you have.
For example, your gynecologist will ask if you’re sexually active. They’ll ask how many sexual partners you have and if any have been diagnosed with an STD.
Let your gynecologist know about any concerns or symptoms you have that might indicate an STD or STI. These can include:
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful and/or itchy bumps on the genitals
- Heavy or otherwise unusual bleeding
- Discharge with an odd smell
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Remaining honest with your answers will allow your doctor to gather the information they need to support you. They won’t judge you based on the answers you provide.
Schedule Your Next Appointment
Before leaving your gynecologist’s office, determine when you should schedule your next appointment.
For example, you should schedule a pelvic exam every three years. You might need to visit your gynecologist more often if you have specific concerns. For example, perhaps you’re interested in getting pregnant or want to renew your birth control prescription.
Prepare for Your Next Gynecology Appointment With These Tips
Preparing for your next (or first) gynecology appointment doesn’t have to feel stressful. Instead, use these tips to remain organized and in control. Preparing ahead of time can help you feel more comfortable before your appointment.
Remember, your doctor is there to support your health. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have.
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