I’m always the first to say that there are lots of really, really great things about being a girl. Bras with cute patterns, for example. Deodorant that smells like flowers instead of, like, guns or testosterone. The implicit knowledge that pretty much every song Beyoncé sings is basically about you.
You know what’s not so awesome? The fact that, at one point or another, you have to make what feels like a super-daunting healthcare leap from the pediatrician to…the gynecologist. I don’t know what, exactly, makes the first trip to the gyno feel so terrifying. Is it that the name itself sounds much intrinsically clinical and sinister than the soothing, bubblegum-cough-syrup-sounding pediatrician’s office? Or the fact that hearing the word “gynecologist” invokes images of stirrups, open-backed hospital gowns, and ever-dreaded stirrups and speculums?
We may never really know. But you should know that you shouldn’t worry! If you’re thinking about making a visit to the gynecologist, and you’re also feeling a little nervous–maybe a more than a little nervous?–here’s what you need to know:
Your First Visit Won't Be ScaryYour first appointment should be pretty simple! Your doctor will ask you a bunch of questions relating to your family's medical history and your sexual health. You'll probably fill out a questionnaire or your doctor or nurse will ask you some questions themselves. They'll ask you things like when your last period was, if you're sexually active, or if you experience any pain during sex. Image source:iStock
Know When To StartThis varies, but most people start visiting the gynecologist when they're between thirteen-fifteen years old. You don't have to determine this by age alone, however--some girls wait until they start being sexually active or until they start feeling particularly women-specific symptoms, like abnormal vaginal discharge or irregular periods. Image source:iStock
Be HonestIt can feel scary to reveal what feels like explicit details about your personal life, but it's really, really important that you're totally honest with your doctor here. Remember that this is a judgment-free zone, and they need to know everything that's going on to treat you properly. It's also totally up you whether or not you want your mom to be in the room with you during part or all of the visit, so don't worry about having to reveal some things you're not quite ready for your parents to here. Image source:iStock
Expect A Few TestsThere are four kinds of exams you may experience during your first visit. Don't expect that you'll have all of them--after asking you questions, your doctor will determine and explain to you which tests they'll be performing. General Exam: This is basically the kind of examination that you've been getting at your regular doctor's appointments over the years--they'll measure your weight, height, and blood pressure to gauge your general health. Breast Exam: Your doctor will check your breasts with their hands to see if there are any abnormal lumps or discharge. Pap Smear:This is a test that scrapes off some cells in your cervix. Your doctor will then send the sample to a lab to test for the presence of abnormal cells. You probably won't have this test done the first time you visit the gyno if you're still a teenager--many doctors recommend starting Pap smear tests at age twenty-one, and then every three to five years after that. Pelvic Exam: For a pelvic exam, your doctor will use gloves to check your vulva (the outside of your vagina) to rule out signs of infection. Then, they'll slide a speculum (a metal or plastic instrument that looks kind of like tongs) into the vagina in order to get a good look inside to make sure the cervix, walls, and discharge are healthy. After removing the speculum, the doctor will insert gloved and lubricated fingers into the vagina while pressing on your abdomen in order to feel your cervix, ovaries, and womb. This is to assess their size, see if there are cysts present, etc. During this part, you'll feel a lot of pressure, but it shouldn't be painful. Image source:iStock
Don't Schedule An Appointment If You're On Your PeriodIt can be kind of tricky to plan things around your period--especially if the reason why you're visiting the gyro in the first place is because your period is irregular--but, if possible, try to schedule an appointment when you're a week or two out from your period. Why is this? The presence of blood can mess with tests and make it harder to detect things. But don't freak out if your period starts the day you're supposed to visit the gynecologist--just call them and say what's up, and they'll tell you what to do. Image source:iStock
Don't Feel Like You Have To GroomYour doctor doesn't care what you look like down there, so don't feel like you have to shave or freshen up in a way that's different from your usual bathing routine. Also, definitely don't douche (which you shouldn't do anyway) or use spermicides or yeast infection medication within twenty-four hours of your appointment because it can mess up some the tests that your gyno will do. Image source:iStock
Be An Informed PatientMake your first visit a productive one. Before you go, think about any questions that you want to ask. This is a small amount of time in which a professional will be 100% dedicated to you and your body, so you definitely want to get as much out of them as possible. If you're wondering about birth control, other contraception, or anything else related to your body, this is the time to ask. Image source:iStock
Have you ever been to the gyno? Did I miss any questions you’ve been wanting to ask? Let us know in the comments!