Heading to the gynecologist for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Perhaps the idea of being examined by someone who’s a complete stranger to you is what bothers you. Maybe you feel confused and scared about the entire process. Or, you may have heard or read stories about negative experiences at the OBGYN.
The truth is, there is nothing to worry about when visiting a gynecologist. Although it is normal for you to feel somewhat nervous, getting informed can help you overcome this fear and ensure a stress-free experience. Below, five things you should know before heading for your first gynecologist appointment.
Understand why you’re scheduling the appointment
First things first, you don’t need a specific reason to schedule an appointment. Generally speaking, it’s best that girls visit the gynecologist for the first time when they’re between 13 and 15 years of age. After that, it’s enough that they schedule one wellness visit annually, provided they don’t have any reproductive health concerns.
That said, it is a good idea to be clear with your gynecologist about why you’re visiting them. Before making any appointments, be sure that you understand why you’re doing it. If there’s something particular you want to ask and discuss, it’s best that you be upfront about it. The goal is to leave their office at ease, not worried.
Know what to expect during the appointment
First, the doctor will check your weight and height, along with your blood pressure. Then, the doctor will perform a Pap test or pelvic exam. If you’re under 21 and not sexually active, they’ll skip this. However, if you want STI testing, have particular health concerns you’re struggling with (e.g. excessive bleeding), or are sexually active, your doctor will perform these tests. Finally, the doctor will do a breast exam and teach you how to check for any potential changes.
To help make your first gynecology appointment a more pleasant, stress-free experience, find a doctor you can trust. Be sure to ask your friends and family for references before choosing yours. You can ask them to share their own experience as well.
Don’t worry about how you look “down there”
Your reproductive health is a personal, private issue. Therefore, it’s understandable that you might feel uncomfortable discussing it as well as being examined afterwards. Sometimes, it might be due to the way you look “down there”. If you want to put your mind at ease, consider trimming or shaving your pubic hair. It is up to you to decide if you’re going to do this or not. What’s important is that you shower beforehand, and avoid using any powders and creams two days before the exam.
Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be an uncomfortable or stressful experience. If you’re anxious about heading to the gynecologist’s office yourself, bring a parent or a close friend with you.
Get ready to be honest
Your gynecologist will be asking a variety of questions during the visit. While this may feel uncomfortable, remember – they do this for a living, and are there to help support your health. That’s why you need to make sure you’re giving informative, honest answers.
First, they’ll ask about your menstrual cycle. This includes information such as the day of your last period, your period symptoms, and any potential irregularities. They’ll also want to know whether you’re sexually active, and if so, what kind of birth control you’re using. Your gynecologist will also ask about your own medical conditions (if any) as well as your family’s medical history. This is of vital importance for determining the best birth control method for you.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions
When it comes to a person’s reproductive health, there’s no such thing as being too curious. Maybe you’ve noticed that your vaginal discharge is different (changes in color, smell, etc.). Perhaps you feel anxious about starting to use certain birth control methods. Or, you might be worried about certain abnormalities, such as excessive pain and cramps or heavy bleeding. Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to bring up any concerns you may have.
It’d be a good idea to write down everything you want to ask prior to the exam. If there’s something bothering you, be sure to address it. Gynecologists are there to help, and no topic or question is off limits, especially when it’s about your own health.
As stressful as it seems, making that first visit to the gynecologist can actually be a positive experience. What you can do about it is to get informed prior to the appointment, schedule an appointment with someone you trust, and prepare questions in advance. Remember, the sooner you start visiting a gynecologist, the more relaxed you’ll feel about your future appointments.