Your first trip to the Gynecologist isn’t normally what most young women think of as a good time—you don’t expect to leave with a lollipop. The protocol for your first gynecologist is to go for your first visit when you are 18 years old or when you first become sexually active. What most young women expect is, well—they don’t always know what to expect, and so we’re here to give you the information up front.
It Starts with Chit-Chat
Since this is your first time seeing your doctor, he or she is going to want to get to know you a bit. This is a good thing, so you both feel more comfortable throughout the appointment. Your doctor will most likely ask about your friends, what you do in your spare time, and if you’re in a relationship.
The Oral Exam
The oral exam will veer off of the chit chat portion of the exam. Once your doctor knows a little about you and your interests, he or she will start to ask more in depth questions. They may ask about your energy levels, exercise and sleeping patterns, and how your mood has been recently. No, these things are not directly related to gynecology but can relate to your hormones levels and even then, if your doctor thinks you have a health problem that could be cared for by another specialist, they can often recommend a doctor to see.
Whether or not you are in a relationship, prepare to be honest about your sexual history. If you’re a virgin and have never had sex, tell them. If you’ve had sex with multiple people, tell them. It’s also important to be upfront about other aspects of your vaginal health. If you have questions about birth control methods and are interested in starting to use birth control, or changing the method you used, feel free to ask about it! If you have experienced any discomfort or pain, have noticed irregular discharge, or changes in your menstrual cycle, mention that, as well.
It is important to be as honest as possible upfront during the oral exam before the physical exam so that your doctor is aware of what to look for when examining you.
The Physical Exam
By this point in the exam, you’ve been asked to change out of your clothing into a medical gown. It can be a little scratchy and uncomfortable, but don’t worry, the entire exam will only take about 20 minutes, so you won’t have to endure it for long. Then you’ll be asked to sit on the exam table with your butt scooted towards the edge and your feet up in the stirrups.
At first this is going to feel like an uncomfortable position, because you’ve never been in it before. It seems silly to say, but try to relax. Why? Because if you’re uptight, it’ll be harder for the doctor to examine you. Lay back and try to relax.
First, the doctor will examine your outer genitalia to check for abnormalities. Then, they will use a tool called the speculum to look inside. The speculum can be scary when you first see it—it’s like a pair of metal (or sometimes plastic) tongs. Don’t be frightened, though. All it is, is a tool that the doctor uses to hold the walls of your vagina apart so he or she can get a good look at everything.
The doctor will check for any discoloration or abnormal discharge. Then they will insert a couple fingers and feel inside while simultaneously palpating your abdomen just above. They’re doing this to make sure that everything is in the right place down there—so don’t be intimidated.
If you’re sexually active, your doctor will most likely do a pap smear, which is when they take a long Q-tip and swab the inside of your vagina. When they’re done, this will be sent to the lab and tested for different STDs, most notably chlamydia and gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS. They will also check for other STDs at your request. If you have any questions about the best way to prevent STDs, please feel free to ask your doctor!
A pap smear doesn’t happen at each gynecological appointment, by the way. They are mostly reserved for your annual appointment. Speaking of, after this first appointment, we’ll be expecting to see you back at least once a year for a check-up.
The Breast Exam
Once the physical exam is finished, you’ll be asked to relax and the doctor will examine your breasts. This doesn’t take long and they are mainly looking for abnormal lumps. The doctor will feel around your breasts and also under your armpits. If you have any questions about how to perform a breast exam on your own, which you should be doing on a monthly basis, then this is a great time to ask your doctor what you should be looking and feeling for!
Ta-Da! You Did It!
All of the above happens in about 20 minutes! Are you surprised? See, we told you the exam wasn’t too much to be worried about. Now go treat yourself to a froyo or fancy coffee drink. But wait! Before you go, please make sure you ask your doctor any and all questions you have about your body. Yes, even if they seem weird or embarrassing to ask for you—we promise, the doctor has heard it before and can help. The last thing we want is for you to leave the office not feeling completely secure with what you know about your body.