What to Expect on Your First Visit to the Gynecologist

Gynecologists specialize in healthcare for the female body. This type of doctor's focus is on sexual and reproductive organs with the goal of providing routine care and early detection of cancers, diseases and illness.

When to Have the First Visit

Women typically have their first visit when they turn 18 years old followed by an annual visit for the rest of their lives if there are no complications. Illness or pregnancy will require more visits a year. If a girl is sexually active earlier it is usually a good idea to see a gynecologist sooner.

Other reasons why a patient may visit a gynecologist sooner include but are not limited to:

· Severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain

· Pain, swelling, tenderness, itches, sores or lumps on the vagina or vulva

· Unusual changes in the size, shape or skin of the breast not associated with regular development

· Nipple bleeding or other unusual discharge

· Difficult periods or excessive pain or discomfort before or during menstruation

· A sexually transmitted disease (STD)

· A mother or sister who developed breast cancer before menopause

Preparation for the Visit

Schedule your exam on a day when you will not have your period. Normally you'll need to book weeks if not months in advance unless you have an emergency. If as the date comes closer you suspect you might have your period on the day of the exam, phone the office to find out if you need to reschedule. Bleeding can make it difficult to perform some tests or distort test results.

Do not douche or complete other vaginal preparations for 24 hours before the appointment since doing so can mask some vaginal conditions. Write a list of any concerns you have or questions you'd like to discuss. Don't be shy or embarrassed about any issue. The doctor has heard it all before and won't be shocked with any question or problem you may have.

The Exam

About half of the time spent with your gynecologist will be discussing any questions you have, your periods, any medical conditions you may have, any history of medical problems, and your sex life, what type of contraception and STD protection you're practicing and if you'd like a different type of contraception.

The physical part of the exam includes a pelvic exam and a breast exam. You have the right to ask for someone else in the room like a nurse or doctor's assistant if it makes your more comfortable. You'll be asked to disrobe while the doctor leaves the room. A paper gown will be provided so you can cover yourself. For the pelvic exam you'll need to place your feet in stirrups and spread your knees as wide apart as possible. A sheet will usually be placed over your knees to protect your privacy or you can ask for one. Try to relax. The doctor will put on gloves and examine your external genitals. A sterile metal or plastic speculum will be placed into the vagina and opened so the cervix can be seen and a pap smear taken. Most doctors lubricate the speculum. The gynecologist will do a visual inspection and then insert a tiny spatula or brush to gently scrape cells from the cervix. The cells are taken to a lab for testing. You may experience a small amount of bleeding after the sample is taken. The rectum is visually examined and the physician may insert gloved fingers into the rectum to check for unusual bumps or tears.

After your genitals and rectum are checked out you will be covered up and the doctor will use his or her hands to gently press and examine your breasts to check for lumps, discharge or unusual thickening.


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