What to Know About Sex and Yeast Infections

Simply put, yeast infections are not very fun. When you’re suffering from one, it’s usually a pretty uncomfortable experience with all sorts of symptoms including burning, itching, vaginal pain, a thick discharge, and pain during sex and urination. Yeast infections are fairly common, affecting 75% of women at some point in their lifetimes, and are caused by a fungus (or yeast) called Candida. Candida is common in the body and usually doesn’t cause any problems, but it can multiply and lead to an infection in cases where the vaginal environment is altered.

Happy couple holding hands closeup

With treatment, yeast infections typically clear up within a week. In the meantime, you may find yourself wondering whether it’s okay to have sex, and the short answer is no. You should hold off until your yeast infection is gone. Here are a few reasons why:

Discomfort
When you have a yeast infection, you’re usually not feeling well in the vaginal area, and sex isn’t going to make things any better. Seriously. In fact, having sex when you’re already suffering from itching, burning, and other symptoms can make you feel even worse.

Prolonging your yeast infection
In some cases, engaging in sexual activity can even make your yeast infection stick around longer, or lead to the reappearance of symptoms that recently went away. One reason for this is because many yeast infection medications are taken vaginally and sex can interfere with your medication and push it out from the vagina.

You may pass it on to your partner
It’s not the most common occurrence, but it is possible to pass along a yeast infection to a male or female partner when engaging in sexual activity. Among men, transmission is more likely in certain situations, such as when he’s uncircumcised, has recently been taking antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, is overweight, has poor hygiene, or has an impaired immune system. Fortunately, yeast infections can usually be cleared up pretty easily among both men and women with an over-the-counter antifungal.

What to do if you or your partner is infected with a yeast infection
When you have a yeast infection, it’s important to take medication. It’s a good idea to start with an over-the-counter antifungal medication found at the drugstore. These are available in different varieties—some only require one dose, while others are taken over the course of a few days or a week. If over-the-counter antifungals don’t work, get in touch with your gynecologist who will be able to write you a prescription for something different, such as an oral antifungal or one that’s taken over a longer period of time.

If you and your partner are both suffering from a yeast infection, make sure you both receive treatment before resuming sexual activity. You may think you’re in the clear if your symptoms have gone by the wayside, but if your partner is still suffering, your symptoms may reappear after resuming sexual activity, too. For the best health in the long run, you’ll both want to be feeling better before having sex.

If you have any concerns about a yeast infection and want an appointment with an experienced doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

STD Rates Are on the Rise

STD rates in the United States have experienced a sharp rise over the past four years and recently reached an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017 alone, more than 2.3 million cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis were diagnosed, which was 200,000 cases more than in the year prior.

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When you look at the statistics closely, they’re pretty alarming. Primary and secondary syphilis rates rose a staggering 76%, while gonorrhea saw a 67% increase, and chlamydia rose to a total of more than 1.7 million cases. Somewhere around 45% of these chlamydia diagnoses were in young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

What happens when these illnesses are left untreated?
Despite the alarming number of diagnoses, the truth is that many cases go undiagnosed. Without treatment, sexually transmitted diseases continue to spread and can lead to a host of health problems like ectopic pregnancy, infertility, stillbirth, and increased risk of HIV. Chlamydia can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a harmful illness that can permanently damage the reproductive system. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in protecting your health.

Preventing a continued rise in STD rates
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be cured with antibiotics, but many cases go undiagnosed and untreated. This lack of treatment is a big contributor to why the illnesses continue to spread at such high rates.

In a CDC press briefing this fall, Edward Hook, a physician and director of the CDC funded STD Prevention Training Center, urged the importance of routine testing in preventing the spread of disease. Due to the high rates of chlamydia detected in young women, he recommends that all sexually active women who are under the age of 26 are tested for chlamydia each year. Education is also important here, and though budgets for STD-prevention public health programs have been cut in recent years, maintaining an open dialogue about STDs with your doctor can help keep you informed.

To prevent against the harmful effects of STDs, it’s important to take an active role in your health. This can be done through communicating with your doctor, asking them any questions you may have, making sure you get tested regularly if it’s suggested by your doctor, and following treatment plans if and when any STDs are diagnosed. Remember, the earlier the treatment, the better.

If you have any concerns about STDs, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a medical professional. To make an appointment, call us at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

Enlarged Ovaries: Should You Be Concerned?

Your ovaries can become enlarged for many reasons. Some of these conditions are completely harmless and others are a cause for concern. Typically, an enlarged ovary is more concerning in a woman who has already reached menopause and is no longer ovulating, compared with someone who’s still menstruating.  Follow along to learn about the various conditions can trigger the appearance of enlarged or swollen ovaries:

woman take uterus billboard

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a fairly common illness in which a woman has higher than normal levels of sex hormones known as androgens. Women with PCOS experience a range of symptoms including pelvic pain, facial hair, missed periods, heavy periods, and more. In many cases, the hormone imbalance leads to the development of cysts in the ovaries, which can then cause swelling. Typically, PCOS can be treated but not cured.

Ovulation
Sometimes enlarged ovaries aren’t anything to worry about and are simply due to ovulation. Typically, a woman’s ovaries will swell just before ovulation, which takes place about 14 days into the cycle.  This swelling is temporary and will subside after an egg is released.

Ovarian Cancer
Swollen ovaries can also be due to ovarian cancer. In this case, the swelling  accompanies other symptoms like bloating, abdominal and pelvic pain, a frequent need to urinate, quickly feeling full, weight loss, and more. Ovarian cancer can strike at any age, but it’s most common in women who are between 50- and 60-years-old. If you have any symptoms you’re concerned about, it’s important to see a doctor, as outcomes are best when ovarian cancer is caught early.

Endometriosis
Endometriosis is an illness that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus on other areas of the body where it doesn’t belong, such as the ovaries. In some cases, this can contribute to ovarian swelling and inflammation. This painful illness is fairly common, affecting more than 10% of women who fall between the ages of 15 and 44.

Endometriosis is treated in a number of ways, including pain medication, birth control pills, medications called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, and a few different types of surgery.

Benign ovarian cysts
Benign ovarian cysts are non-cancerous fluid-filled sacs that form on or within the ovaries. A few different types may form, and they’re most common during a woman’s menstruating years. Most of the time, benign ovarian cysts resolve on their own and are nothing to worry about.

Ovarian Tumors
Ovarian tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous and are usually accompanied by symptoms like bloating, indigestion, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or constipation. Depending on the type of tumor, treatment options might be surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this piece or have any concerns about potential ovarian swelling, it’s important to visit a doctor. To make an appointment, call us at 602-343-6174 or visit us at www.aoafamily.com.

Clinical Depression: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

It’s only human to feel sad, alone, and detached from time to time, but if these feelings seem to stick around longer than usual or you start to feel like they’re significantly interfering with your life, you could be suffering from clinical depression.

Sad young tired woman sitting on the bed

Clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder) is a mood disorder that manifests emotionally and physically and is known to cause persistent feelings of sadness and apathy. If you’re suffering from depression, you’re likely to feel alone, emotional, and uninterested in many of the activities that you used to enjoy. For example, maybe you used to go to a yoga class followed by dinner with friends every Wednesday night, but recently have been feeling withdrawn and haven’t had much interest in attending.

If it feels like you hear about depression a lot, this is probably because it’s one of the most common illnesses out there. In the United States, clinical depression affects about 7% of the adult population, and about a quarter of all adults will experience it at some point in their lives.

Clinical depression can strike suddenly and seemingly for no reason, but it’s often brought on by significant life events such as the death of a loved one, relationship troubles (including friendship, family, or a partner), the end of a relationship, moving, loss of a job or changing jobs, social isolation, graduation, abuse, and more. One notable factor about clinical depression is that it affects women at nearly twice the rate as men. This is due to a number of factors, but many are tied to hormonal changes that occur throughout the lifespan alongside menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and miscarriage. Should you notice changes in your mood surrounding any of these situations, or even seemingly out of the blue, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect that you’re suffering from clinical depression:

  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns, whether sleeping more or less than usual, or suffering from insomnia
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from close friends and family
  • Having a short temper
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling more emotional than usual
  • Feeling apathetic
  • A diminished sex drive
  • Significant change in body weight, whether weight loss or weight gain

If you have any concerns or questions about clinical depression and want to speak with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

What is Lupus? Everything you Need to Know

If you’ve been experiencing fatigue, a face rash, sensitivity to sunlight, and other conditions that hint that something may be off, it might be time to see a doctor. While many of these symptoms may be nothing to worry about, they could also be signs of Lupus.

Woman lying on sofa having headache. Stressed girl suffering of fatigue, migraine, trying to cope with nervous tension, worries because of problems, unwanted pregnancy, negative thoughts and emotions

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. It’s chronic, meaning it lasts at least three months and often longer, and is known to cause major problems with skin, joints, and organs. Lupus can show up at any age but is most common among women who are between the ages of 15 and 44. Frequently, lupus goes untreated for quite some time because its symptoms are often similar to those of other ailments.  If you suspect you may be suffering from lupus, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Face rash: One of the most common signs of lupus is a facial rash that forms a butterfly-like shape across the nose and cheeks. This rash isn’t present in all cases of lupus but appears in many of them.
  • Fatigue: Another common sign of lupus is fatigue. Though it’s hard to measure scientifically, this sign is present within 50-90% of people suffering from lupus and is often strong enough to impact quality of life.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight: Nearly two out of every three individuals with lupus become sensitive to sunlight, and many of them develop a rash after spending time in the sun. More formally, this condition is known as photosensitivity.
  • Shortness of Breath: In some cases, lupus can cause lung inflammation that may contribute to difficulty breathing.
  • Headaches, Confusion, and Memory Loss: Lupus is known to cause headaches and various forms of cognitive impairment. Typically, these issues are worse during flare ups of the illness.
  • Joint Pain: Joint pain, swelling, and inflammation are common among individuals with lupus. This is so common that around 95% of people with lupus will experience arthritis or joint pain at some point.

You should consider seeing a doctor if you’re concerned about any of these symptoms, but especially if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue and fevers or a rash that can’t be explained. It’s important to see a doctor rather than brushing the symptoms aside, because sometimes the inflammation that’s triggered by lupus can cause other serious problems throughout the body, such as kidney damage, issues with the brain and central nervous system, blood issues like anemia, heart issues, and even pregnancy complications such as higher risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia.

While lupus is certainly a serious condition, it’s also treatable and can be managed to allow you to live a full and relatively normal life.  Lupus typically ranges from a mild condition to one that’s more life threatening, so it’s important to stay on top of your medical care to manage the illness. If you’re concerned you may be suffering from lupus and want to speak with a knowledgeable physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Understanding the Risks Involved in Having a Baby Later in Life

It’s not uncommon for many women to start thinking more seriously about childbirth as they get older. But while having a healthy pregnancy at an older age is possible for many women, it’s important to be mindful that it can be significantly more difficult and involve a number of risks. For many women, fertility begins to decrease slowly around age 32 or so, and then much more rapidly around age 37, which can make for a challenging experience in many ways. Read on to learn about some of the challenges women may face as they try to get pregnant as they hit their mid-thirties or forties.

Close Up Of Pregnant Businesswoman In Office

Increased time to conceive: As women get older and their bodies experience typical age-related changes, it often takes them much longer to conceive. Statistics show that while a woman may have a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant during each menstrual cycle when she’s in her twenties, these chances drop to about 15 percent by the time she reaches her mid-thirties, and down to around 5 or 10 percent by age 40. This doesn’t necessarily mean a woman cannot conceive altogether, but the process will typically be more challenging.

Infertility: Women have a harder time conceiving as they age, and may not be able to conceive altogether. It’s believed that somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of couples in the United States struggle with infertility, which is defined as an inability to get pregnant after having frequent, unprotected sex for more than one year. For many women, fertility declines gradually as they age, and then advances more rapidly around age 37.  Many causes contribute to female infertility, such as early menopause, ovulation disorders, age, and other health issues.

You may need to see a fertility specialist: If you’re over age 35 and have tried conceiving for six months without success, it may be time to see a reproductive endocrinologist for help. A reproductive endocrinologist is a fertility specialist who can help you work towards pregnancy by checking your health, making sure your fallopian tubes and eggs are functioning as they should, and recommending treatments like in-vitro fertilization or medication that can encourage ovulation. Your gynecologist should be able to recommend a fertility specialist if you’re interested in exploring this path.

Higher likelihood of complications: When women hit age 40 or so, they are more likely to develop pregnancy-related health complications like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Not only do these complications pose risks to a woman’s health, they also can contribute to pregnancy-related problems such as birth complications, miscarriage, and issues with the placenta.

Increased risk of miscarriage: After the age of 35 or so, women start to encounter a higher risk of miscarriage. Statistics show that at age 35, a woman’s risk of miscarriage is around 20 percent, but jumps much higher to around 80 percent by age 45.

Many women can still conceive and carry healthy pregnancies in their late thirties or forties, but the process is often far more challenging than it may be for younger women, given the issues we mentioned above, such as increased time to conceive, fertility issues, health risks, and more. If you have concerns about getting pregnant later in life and would like to speak with a physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Six Quick Tricks for Spicing Things Up in the Bedroom

As life goes on, our sexual needs and interests inevitably change—you may find yourself more interested in sex, less interested in sex, or completely indifferent to sex all together. The fact is, at any point in life there are going to be a ton of different factors that might influence your sex life or libido. These include your overall health, where you’re at in the aging process, past illnesses, your relationship with your partner, medications, and more. Since an active and healthy sex life is one of life’s greatest pleasures, we thought we’d fill you in on six tips for keeping your sex life healthy and exciting. Read on for the low-down.

Beautiful couple in love in morning

See a sex therapist

Many people would rather do almost anything than talk about their sex life with someone they don’t know. But seeing a sex therapist can be so helpful in spicing up your sex life that it might be time to get over your fears. Sort of like a visit to a psychologist or counselor, a sex therapist can help you unravel the psychological and physiological aspects of your sex life, while also helping you bring in more mindfulness and communication with your partner. Overall, this is a form of psychotherapy that can play a huge role in getting your sex life back on track.

Experiment with sex positions

Sometimes, when you find yourself uninterested in sex, there isn’t a complex underlying cause—you might simply be bored. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest situations to fix. One of the simplest ways to bring some excitement into the bedroom is to experiment with different sex positions. When experimenting with sex positions that typically fall out of your norm, you might find yourself being stimulated in new ways and enjoy the adventure of it all along the way. Start by setting a goal of trying one or two new positions each week for a month. Here are a few ideas for getting started, but with a creative imagination (or a quick google search!) the opportunities are endless.

Kindness counts: Show your partner you care

Introducing oils into the bedroom is a great way to slow things down and really pay attention to your partner. Find a nice oil and surprise your partner with a massage—you’ll be surprised at how quickly one thing might move to another from there.

Maybe massage isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, why not try cooking a romantic dinner for your partner? Wear something fancy and request the same of your partner, grab a nice bottle of wine, and enhance the atmosphere with candles and dim lighting. Even if your romantic evening doesn’t lead to sex, kind actions of this variety will almost certainly strengthen your relationship and leave your partner feeling appreciated.

Get flirty

Flirtation brings so much fun and excitement into the early stages of a relationship, but often disappears after things get serious. Whether it’s teasing, making serious eye contact, texting, or sexting, it’s important to remember that a bit of flirtation can go a long way in keeping your relationship and sex life thriving.

Stay on top of your sexual health

Your sexual health plays a huge role in your sex life. After all, when you’re not feeling right, you’re often far less interested in engaging in any form of sexual activity. It’s important to see and talk to your doctor about any signs that are troubling you or interfering with your sex life. This could mean anything from pain during sex or urination to new smells down there that you haven’t experienced before, or even simply when you’re experiencing a lack of interest in sex. And remember it’s not just sexual health that plays a role in your sex life—your overall health does too. Too keep things running smoothly, make sure you’re eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking care of any health conditions you’re experiencing.

Change up your birth control

Many people don’t realize it, but hormonal birth control can have a big impact on your sex drive, depending how your body reacts with the type you’re taking. Most people don’t experience a change in libido from birth control pills, but some do. Some women see a rise in their libido, whereas others feel less desire for sex. If you notice a change in how you feel about sex since starting a new type of birth control, bring the issue up with your gynecologist. It’s important to keep your doctor in the loop so they can check for other underlying conditions and consider prescribing you a different type or method of birth control.

Remember that whenever you have concerns about your sex life or sexual health, it’s always a good idea to have an open and honest conversation with a health professional. To speak with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Anorgasmia in Women

Orgasms vary in intensity and duration and can present differently from woman to woman, but for those who suffer from a medical condition called anorgasmia, it can be difficult, or even impossible, to reach orgasm at all. Essentially, anorgasmia is a type of sexual dysfunction where a person isn’t able to reach orgasm even with ample sexual stimulation. Given that many women experience anorgasmia at some point in time, we thought we would fill you in on everything you need to know about this condition.

Happy couple looking through window at home

The various types of anorgasmia

Anorgasmia can present itself in many different forms. Here are a few you might experience:

Acquired anorgasmia: In this form of anorgasmia, a woman who previously was able to achieve orgasm is no longer able or has trouble reaching climax.

Lifelong or generalized anorgasmia: Women with lifelong or generalized anorgasmia are unable (and never have been able) to reach climax and experience an orgasm in any situation.

Situational anorgasmia: Women with situational anorgasmia can only achieve orgasm during specific circumstances and possibly even with a specific partner. Women with this type of anorgasmia may be able to reach climax during oral sex, but not through vaginal penetration.

What causes anorgasmia?
Anorgasmia can arise for a number of reasons, with medication side effects being one of the most common causes. Antihistamines, antidepressants (SSRIs in particular), and blood pressure medications are among the more common medications that can be problematic. Diabetes, neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses can also contribute to anorgasmia. High alcohol intake and smoking are also problematic for some women. And sometimes, aging is a big contributor, especially because blood flow to the clitoris and vagina may slow down as women move toward menopause and estrogen levels fall.

Anorgasmia may also have psychological roots, including poor body image, anxiety, depression, past sexual trauma, stress, or even embarrassment. Or the cause may be relationship related, such as trust issues, communication challenges, or lack of a strong connection between partners.

Is it necessary to see a doctor?
If you’ve never achieved an orgasm or are experiencing periodic or recent troubles climaxing, consider seeing a doctor to discuss your experience. They may be able to help you remedy or manage the situation in a simple way, such as helping you minimize stress or treating underlying medical conditions. If you decide to see a doctor, you can expect them to ask about your sexual history, symptoms, and medical history.

Treating anorgasmia
Anorgasmia can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the type of anorgasmia and the reasons it’s occurring. Here are a few common treatment recommendations:

  • Address relationship issues and challenges through improved communication, relationship counseling, or other means.
  • Manage stress and anxiety.
  • Increase the amount of sexual stimulation, especially either directly or indirectly to the clitoris. Vibrators and other devices can be helpful here.
  • Experiment sexually to find out what works for you and gain a better understanding of your body.
  • Explore cognitive behavioral therapy, which can reframe the way you think about sex.
  • Explore sex therapy.
  • Receive medical treatment for underlying conditions that may contribute to or cause your anorgasmia.

If you are experiencing anorgasmia and want to speak with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

What You Need to Know about Anemia and Your Period

Anemia is a common health condition characterized by low red blood cell count that affects more than 3 million Americans. Having an insufficient amount of red blood cells can be problematic because the body’s cells are unable to get enough oxygen, leading to fatigue and other symptoms.

Anemia and Your Period

Anemia comes in many forms, with many caused by blood loss or iron deficiency. In general, many women experience anemia because of heavy menstrual periods that cause their iron levels to fall. Overall, women are at higher risk of anemia than men. Specific high risk groups include the elderly, Hispanic women, women of color, people with chronic illness, and women of childbearing age. Here we’ll get into the specifics of anemia and the ways in which menstruation can affect and contribute to anemia.

Anemia due to blood loss

Women who suffer from heavy menstrual periods are more prone to forms of anemia where red blood cells are lost to bleeding, which makes sense when you think about it. Women with anemia due to blood loss may be left feeling tired, weak, and possibly even out of breath. One sign that your period is abnormally heavy is if you’re going through a tampon or pad every hour for at least a few hours in a row. Other signs include passing large blood clots and bleeding for more than seven days in a row. If you’re experiencing any of these situations, you should speak with your doctor about getting tested for anemia.

Iron-deficiency anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia comes about when the body is low on iron. Not having enough iron in the body is problematic because it’s needed to produce hemoglobin for red blood cells. While this form of anemia can arise from a number of factors, including diet, menstruation is a common contributor. Women of childbearing age are at a higher risk for this form of anemia due to blood loss during menstruation and the increased demands on blood supply during pregnancy. People suffering from iron-deficiency anemia may experience strange cravings, such as for paper, dirt, or ice.

What are some symptoms of anemia?

Some common symptoms of anemia include lethargy, dizziness, pale skin, abnormally rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, irritability, trouble with concentration, sexual dysfunction, and insomnia. Though these symptoms will vary depending on the form of anemia, its severity, and the cause. It’s important to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing a combination of these symptoms, especially if you’re also suffering from a very heavy menstrual period. Your physician will be able to carry out further testing to determine if you are suffering from anemia. These tests are likely to include a physical exam, medical history, and blood work that assesses your levels of red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets.

Should I be worried about anemia?
Whether you should worry about anemia depends on the situation. Anemia that develops during pregnancy affects up to 40% of pregnant women and is often seen as normal. For women who are considering becoming pregnant, doctors will usually recommend supplements including iron and folate. And anemias due to blood loss and iron-deficiency can usually be treated with iron supplements and even dietary adjustments. However, some forms of anemia can be much harder to treat and require procedures such as blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.

If you have any concerns about anemia and want to speak with a knowledgeable physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

10 Things to Know Before Your First Gynecologist Appointment

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.

Female Doctor Meeting With Teenage Patient In Exam Room

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.