For many teens and women, seeing a gynecologist for the first time can be a daunting and fearful prospect. But the truth is, visiting a gynecologist isn’t actually a bad experience at all. Follow along as we let you know what to expect and answer some common questions related to seeing a gynecologist for the first time.
What’s a normal age to first see a gynecologist?
Many recommend that girls see a gynecologist for the first time somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15. But if you’re older and have never seen a gynecologist, don’t let this guideline put you off from making an appointment.
Will the visit be uncomfortable or awkward?
While it’s completely normal to be nervous before your first gynecological exam, there’s really no reason to be. Most likely, the appointment won’t be nearly as awkward or scary as you might expect.
Your doctor will thoroughly explain everything they do, and will likely be friendly and talkative, putting you at ease the entire time. You can expect to talk about things like your health history, your family and their health, your menstrual cycle, whether or not you’re sexually active, whether you consume alcohol, and other personal topics. It’s important to answer honestly so that your doctor is able to get an accurate understanding of your health.
Can I bring someone along for support?
If it makes you feel more comfortable to have a family member or friend by your side, most doctors will allow you to bring someone along to your exam.
What should I expect during my exam?
When you visit the gynecologist, many doctors will want to run a few tests. These exams will vary depending on why you’re there, whether you’re sexually active, and how old you are. Height, weight, and blood pressure measurements are common, as are external genital exams, pelvic exams, breast exams and pap smears. However, a first visit may simply involve conversing with the doctor, and not include any tests. For young patients, a doctor may not perform a pelvic exam, and pap smears aren’t performed on women who are under 21.
What to expect during an external genital exam
During an external genital exam, a doctor will take a look at the area around your vaginal opening, which includes the labia, vulva, clitoris, and anus. Your doctor may even use a mirror so you’re able to see what these body parts look like.
What to expect during a pelvic exam and pap smear
A pelvic exam is performed yearly once patients hit age 21 or so. During this quick test that usually lasts little more than ten minutes, your doctor will look for signs of abnormalities and illness. They will look at body parts including the vulva, ovaries, cervix, uterus, and bladder. The doctor will also insert a metal device called a speculum into the vagina. The test may be a little bit uncomfortable and the speculum may feel cold, but it won’t be painful.
Your doctor may also do some other tests during the pelvic exam, such as check for STDs or do a pap smear. A pap smear is a gentle and pain-free test in which your doctor will scrape some cells from your cervix to test for cervical cancer. For women who fall somewhere between 21- and 30-years-old, the test is usually performed every three years. For those above 30, the time period between tests may be longer.
Should I shave or wax before my appointment?
It’s not necessary to shave or wax around the vagina before your first visit to a gynecologist. You will want to be clean though, so be sure to shower that day, using a gentle soap to maintain proper vaginal hygiene.
Will the doctor keep everything confidential?
Conversations that take place during your visit will be kept confidential for patients who are older than 18. For patients younger than 18, some information may be shared with parents or guardians if the doctor feels it is important to do so.
Is it ok to ask questions?
It is definitely ok to ask questions when you visit a gynecologist, in fact it’s encouraged. Keep in mind that no topic is too weird to discuss, so don’t hold back from voicing a concern or seeking an answer just because you think the question may be taboo or embarrassing.
Should I follow up?
If your doctor performs any tests during your visit, you’ll want to follow up about a week later (if you haven’t already heard back) to check on the results. With some doctors you’ll simply call the office, while with others you can check results within an online portal.
If you have any concerns about your first gynecologist visit and want to speak with a knowledgeable physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.