Visits to the gynecologist are part of a woman’s life. During the reproductive period, women should see their doctor as often as necessary. Pregnant women on the other hand, should have regular medical check-ups. If you are not feeling very comfortable with a gynecological exam, or are preparing for your first visit, take a look at the list of things you can expect when visiting the gynecologist.
Firstly, the doctor or a nurse will ask you a series of questions in order to determine your medical history as accurately as possible. These will include questions about your general health, any chronic or genetic conditions, as well as lifestyle and habits such as smoking or drinking. They will probably ask about your menstrual cycle, when you had your first period, how regular your cycles are and whether you have strong cramps during bleeding.
The questions will also cover whether you’ve ever had an STD, any prior treatments and whether you use birth control. Don’t be shy – all the information you share with your doctor is confidential and will help to create a more accurate picture about your reproductive health. If you have any questions, now is the right time to ask them.
You will be asked to take your underwear off, sit on the examination bed and put your legs on the appropriate holders, so that they are set apart, allowing the doctor to do the exam of your intimate region. Take a deep breath and make yourself as comfortable as possible – the most important thing is to relax. That way the exam will be only slightly uncomfortable and should be painless.
The exam itself consists of the outside visual inspection and inserting the speculum (a metal tool that opens up the vagina and keeps it open during the exam). The doctor will manually inspect the vagina, uterus and ovaries, after which they make take a vaginal and/or cervical swap. The swap can provide detailed look into the vaginal flora and possible infections.
The check-up can also include a Papanicolaou test (known as Pap or smear test), that can detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous changes in the cervix. The doctor will take a swap from your cervix, which is later analyzed under a microscope to look for any abnormalities.
All sexually active women should be regularly tested for STD – some of these tests are performed through a vaginal swab, while others demand a blood test.
In the end, your doctor should explain any test results you’ve had, prescribe appropriate therapy, and explain the course of therapy and any lifestyle changes you may (temporarily or permanently) need to make. If you have any questions or worries, don’t hesitate to ask. Your medical professional should be polite, patient and open for questions.