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My First Time: A Girl's Guide to Visiting Her Gynecologist

There are so many changes taking place in a girl’s body during adolescence and early adulthood that she may feel awkward and at odds with her body. Throw “visiting the gynecologist” into the mix and you have the recipe for a potential case of the jitters. However, we all know how important it is to take care of our health, and regular visits to your AOA gynecologist are simply an essential part of growing up and taking responsibility for your health.

If you are a young woman contemplating her “first time” or a mother looking to set her daughter’s mind at ease, we’ve provided an overview of what to expect during your first visit to a gynecologist, along with some helpful hints on how to prepare yourself beforehand. Relax, put your feet up (not in the stirrups quite yet) and let us demystify the experience and reassure you that there is nothing to fear.

My First Time: A Girl’s Guide to Visiting Her Gynecologist

Why it’s Important to Have Regular Gynecological Exams
Regular gynecological exams serve at least three main purposes:

  1. Information. You can get accurate information and confidential answers to any questions you may have concerning sex, sexuality, your changing body, and menstruation.
  2. Prevention. You can learn about pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, and healthy lifestyles.
  3. Treatment. For women who experience missed periods, pain, or other reproductive problems, the doctor can look into why the problems are occurring and offer treatment. This includes both you and your AOA doctor becoming more familiar with your family medical history. Before you go for your first visit to the gynecologist, you should find out as much as you can about the medical history of other females in your family. Have they had painful periods? Endometriosis? Ectopic pregnancies? Surgeries? Anemia? Cancer? Diabetes? Other chronic illnesses?

Before the Exam
When you decide to make an appointment for a gynecological exam with your AOA doctor, make sure to schedule it to take place during the middle of your menstrual cycle. Avoid sexual intercourse, having a vaginal douche, or putting anything (such as tampons) into your vagina for two days before the exam.

Think ahead about the questions you’d like to ask your AOA doctor during the visit. Writing the questions down will make it easier to remember. Some areas where you may have questions include birth control methods, common infections, irregular periods, painful periods, and mood swings related to your periods.

Again, gather your family medical history, especially your mother’s history and if you have older sisters, you’ll want to know about them as well.

On the Day of the Exam
On the day of your scheduled exam you do not need to do anything special. Shower normally with soap and water, but avoid using powders or creams, since they can affect test results. Wear comfortable, uncomplicated clothes in order to feel calm when it comes time to undress.

Before your examination a nurse may ask for urine and blood samples. The nurse will also weigh and measure you and take your blood pressure.

The nurse will then ask you to undress and will then leave you alone in a room for a while. You will be given a hospital gown and/or drape sheet, which will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Once you are undressed and in your gown, your AOA healthcare provider will come back into the examination room and talk for a bit. The doctor will ask questions about your previous medical history, your family history and past surgeries. He or she will ask you to remember when your first period was and tell them what it is like - whether your menstrual cycle is regular, how long it lasts, etc. Also, it is important to tell your doctor whether you are sexually active or not. Your AOA doctor is a partner in your health care, so feel free to ask any questions you may have. Remember that anything you say in privacy with the doctor is kept strictly confidential.

After you are ready, the doctor will ask you to sit on the examining table, putting your feet in the foot rests/stirrups. This can feel a bit invasive, but keep in mind that these exams are necessary and important for keeping you in the best of health. There is no need to feel embarrassed. Just remember the vast majority of adult American women have these exams regularly.

Physical and External Genitalia Exams
Physical examination includes palpation of the breasts to check for any abnormalities, as well as pelvic, abdominal and manual exams. You AOA physician will examine your external genitalia with latex gloves on and will examine your vulva for any pathologic symptoms. Physical examination should not be painful but if it is, you should tell your doctor right away, since this could be a sign of certain pathology.

Speculum Examination
After examining you externally, your AOA gynecologist will insert a lubricated speculum into your vagina to check for any abnormalities like cysts, erosions, or irritations. Before the speculum is inserted the doctor will first slip a finger into your vagina to find the cervix and detect the vaginal angle. The doctor will then insert the speculum into your vagina and click it into an open position. Again, this is not painful, but it might feel a little strange at first. Remember to just breathe and relax.

Once the speculum is in place, the doctor will take a Pap smear. This means that a few cells of your cervix will be swiped with a brush or spatula. This is not painful, but may cause a slight pinch or sensation and it may cause some spotting afterwards, which should not be painful either and will not last. The doctor will then collect samples for sexually transmitted diseases tests. Then the speculum will be gently removed from the vagina and this portion of the examination will be over.

Bimanual Exam
During this part of the examination, your gynecologist will lubricate her/his two (second and third) fingers and insert them into your vagina. The doctor will put another hand on your abdomen in order to palpate the uterus and ovaries and check for any swelling or growths.

The bimanual exam ends the gynecological examination, which normally takes no longer than 5 minutes. You will then be able to remove your legs from the stirrups and get up from the examination table and get dressed.

After the Exam
An AOA office nurse will follow up with any test results, either by phone or by email.

Helping You Feel Comfortable and Well Informed
Your AOA physician and office staff will go out of their way to make sure you understand the elements of the exam and feel as comfortable as possible. Be sure to ask if you have any questions or concerns.

Learn more about getting your first gynecological exam: