Annual Gynecological Exams and What You Should Prepare For
Regular gynecological exams are essential to the health of any woman. These exams can discover signs of cancer or other health problems when they are in their early stages, helping women to get important treatment. These exams also contribute toward a strong relationship between a woman and her doctor, which can lead to better health care in the long term.
You may feel nervous about your first gynecological exam since it is such an intimate experience. However, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can soothe some of that anxiety. Here’s a little information about what you can expect from your annual gynecological exam:
When to Get the Exam
Women should start getting gynecological exams at age 21. You don’t need to get the exam any earlier unless you are having problems, such as irregular menstrual cycles, abnormal bleeding, vaginal pain, abnormal discharge, breast tenderness, itching in the vagina or breasts, lumps, or swelling. Otherwise, you can wait to get the exam.
Making the Appointment
You should let the appointment setter know that you are seeing the gynecologist for the first time. That way, the doctor can be informed and will be more sensitive to your needs when you arrive. You may also consider asking a friend or family member to accompany you to the exam if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, you can also ask to have another nurse in the room during the exam.
Preparing for the Exam
You do not have to do anything to prepare for your gynecological exam. You should have a bit of information about your health history to share with your doctor, and you should be prepared to share information about any medication you take. You do not need to – and should NOT – use any douches or vaginal creams. It would also be helpful if you refrained from having sex in the 24 hours before your exam.
During the Exam
You can expect your gynecologist to perform basic checks like a doctor would, such as listening to your heart, looking at your eyes, and listening to your breathing. The gynecologist will conduct a pelvic exam, which will include looking at the external genitals for signs of abnormalities, as well as an internal exam. The gynecologist will use a speculum to open the walls of the vagina to be able to more easily see the cervix and parts of the vagina.
Your gynecologist will also insert a finger into the vagina to check the health of the uterus and the ovaries. Your doctor will press a hand on the stomach while doing this.
The Pap Smear
You should get a gynecological exam each year, but not every exam will include a pap smear. Current recommendations call for healthy women ages 21 to 30 to have a pap smear every three years. Women who are between 30 and 65 can get the pap smear every five years as long as the test has been normal.
The pap smear is conducted during the pelvic exam when the vagina is opened with the speculum. The gynecologist takes a swab from your cervix to test for cervical cancer. The results of the pap smear are available quickly, and your doctor will usually send them to you through email or by phone call. Some doctors have internal systems in which you can log in and see the results.
Your gynecological exam will also include a breast exam. Your doctor will palpate the breasts to look for signs of lumps or thickness. Your doctor will also ask you if you feel any tenderness or if you have recently experienced any strange symptoms, such as discharge or itching.
Other Aspects of the Exam
Your gynecologist may also ask you for a urine sample during your exam. The urine sample can be used to test for pregnancy, kidney functioning, infection, and possibly more. You may also be asked if you want to be tested for sexually transmitted disease.
You will also have the chance to discuss any health concerns you have with your gynecologist, or to ask questions about the exam or about other health issues.
Your annual gynecological exam is an important part of your health care, and you should schedule it regularly. If you feel nervous at all about this exam, prepare yourself with knowledge. You can also talk to your doctor about your anxiety and about ways to make it easier on you.
East Mesa Family Doctors provide sensitive and compassionate care. Our doctors provide a full range of health services, including annual gynecological exams. We treat women and their whole family. Our doctors want to help you achieve optimal health, and that includes regular exams. Call us today to schedule your exam.
Address: 8035 E. Brown Road, Building 4, #101, Mesa, AZ 85207
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (480) 750-0085