Taking care of your health is very important. Regular visits to your general practitioner as well as to a gynecologist are must if you care about your body and want to stay healthy. Specialists say that women need to see their gynecologist at least once a year since the beginning of their sexual life. Others say that it is important to have a first gynecological exam for women who have not yet started being sexually active but have reached the age of 18. And of course, in case a woman has problems with her reproductive system she needs to see her gynecologist at any age.
A gynecological examination is something that many women are afraid of before they actually have it for the first time. Here is a list of the things that are going to happen during your first visit to a gynecologist, including the preparation before it.
Before the Exam
When you decide to make an appointment with your gynecologist, do make sure that your visit will be during the middle of your menstrual cycle. Once the appointment is scheduled avoid having sexual intercourse, vaginal douche or putting anything, like tampons into your vagina two days before it. You are advised to think and write a list of any questions and queries you would like to ask your doctor. In addition, think of your choices when birth control method is concerned.
On the day of your scheduled exam you do not need to do anything special. You should shower normally with soap and water, avoiding talc or cream since it could affect test results. It is best for you to wear comfortable clothes in order to feel calm when you have to get undressed.
On the Day of the Exam
Before your examination a nurse may ask for urine and blood samples for the test. The nurse will also weigh and measure you and your blood pressure. Afterwards you will talk to your doctor, who will ask various questions about your previous medical history, your family history and past surgeries. It is also important for you to remember when your first period was and what it is like – whether it is regular, how long it lasts etc. It is important to tell your doctor whether you are sexually active or not. Feel free to ask any questions you want.
Your gynecologist will then ask you to undress and leave you alone in a room for a while. You will also be given a hospital gown or drape sheet, which will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed. After you are ready, the doctor will ask you to sit on the examining table putting your feet in the foot rests.
Physical and External Genitalia Exams
Physical examination includes palpation of the breasts to check for any abnormalities, pelvic, abdominal and manual exams. The gynecologist will examine your external genitalia with latex gloves on. Your vulva will be examined for any pathologic symptoms. Physical examination should not be painful but if it is, you should tell your doctor straight away, since this could be a sign of certain pathology.
The speculum exam follows the physical examination. The gynecologist will insert a lubricated speculum into the vagina to check for any abnormalities like cysts, erosions, irritations and others. Before the speculum is inserted the doctor will first slip a finger into your vagina to find the cervix and detect the vaginal angle.
During this exam the Pap smear is taken. This means that a few cells of your cervix will be swiped with a brush or spatula. This is not painful but may cause some spotting for the patient afterwards, which should not be painful either. The doctor will then collect samples for sexually transmitted diseases tests. Only then the speculum will be gently removed from a woman’s vagina and the examination will be over.
During this part of gynecological examination the gynecologist will lubricate her/his two (second and third) fingers and put them into the vagina. The doctor will put another hand on the abdomen in order to palpate the uterus and ovaries and check for any swelling or growths.
Bimanual exam ends the gynecological examination, which normally takes not longer than 5 minutes. You may now remove your legs from the stirrups and get up from the examination table and get dressed.
After the Exam
You may ask any questions about your examination after it is over. The doctor can do some tests in the own laboratory, therefore you will be able to discuss the results of some tests on the same day. Results of the other tests performed may take a few days, and hence you will need to come back once again for them.
In case any treatment is needed the gynecologist will prescribe certain medications. He/she will also recommend you a method of birth control if you need one. Remember to ask any questions that you wish about your test results, choices of birth control, treatment or sexual life. Your gynecologist is there for you to help and give any information you need.
As you can see there is nothing to fear about the gynecological examination. If you still have any concerns about the exam, feel free to ask your friends, your sister or your mother as there is nothing embarrassing about it. And after you have had your first gynecological examination you will practically know that it is nothing extraordinary, uncomfortable but very informative and important for every woman. Remember, that staying healthy is taking care of your body and health.