My first gynecologist visit was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life; but it was not terrifying because of what happened during the visit. I was terrified beforehand because no one prepared me for what to expect. The only knowledge of what to expect when going to a gynecologist was what I had seen in
movies. Movies make a visit to the gynecologist seem like a nerve-wracking event that only needs to happen if you are pregnant or have obvious symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). From the portrayal of unprofessional doctors to the over dramatization of equipment, a trip to the gynecologist can seem intimidating. As young girls, we are not told what to expect at a gynecologist visit, which makes visiting one for the first time scary. What is worse is that no one talks about it among our peers unless
something bad has happened.
At your first visit, you can expect to sit down with your gynecologist to discuss your sexual history. This can seem a little daunting, especially for me because I grew up in a home where we did not talk about our
bodies and we did not discuss sex. It may seem embarrassing to discuss your sex life with your doctor. However, it is important to remain honest and fully disclose your sexual history with them. This ensures that your doctor can better serve you. Your doctor will want to know your family’s medical history, how many sexual partners you have had, whether the sexual encounters were safe, and the gender[s] of your partners. Next, your doctor will want to discuss STIs and how to prevent becoming infected with one.
If any of your sexual partners are male, your doctor will also discuss options for family planning with you.
The examination part of your visit involves a breast examination as well as a pelvic examination. For me, this was even more embarrassing than talking about my sexual history because of the way I was raised to not talk about sex and my body. During a breast exam, your doctor will touch your breasts in sections with very little pressure in order to feel the structure of your breasts and determine if there are any lumps or thick tissue areas to be concerned about. Your doctor will also explain to you how you should give yourself a breast self-exam regularly. After your breasts have been examined, you will be asked to lay back on the exam table and place your feet in the stirrups, which are basically extended arms that come out of the bottom of the exam table and hold your feet in place while your knees are bent and hips spread so that the doctor can perform your pelvic exam. I found that for me, the most awkward part of the whole exam was scooting my bottom down to the edge of the exam table with my legs in the stirrups. Once suitably down to the edge of the table, your doctor will perform the pelvic exam.
A pelvic exam usually can be described in three parts.
- First, your doctor will use their fingers to feel your reproductive organs by applying pressure from both inside your vagina and from the outside on your belly.
- Second, your doctor will insert a tool called
a speculum into your vagina in order to hold your vagina open so that your cervix can be seen.
- After a visual exam of your cervix is done, your doctor will use a swab to collect a tiny amount of tissue from your cervix to send to the lab to test for disease. (While I did not find it super awesome and comfortable, the swab, called a PAP smear, was not as terrible as I had thought it would be. It is not recommended that you regularly get a PAP smear until you are age 21. A PAP test is a test of a sample of cells taken from a women’s cervix or vagina. The test used to look for changes in the cells in the cervix and vagina that show cancer or conditions that may develop into cancer)
Overall, a visit to a gynecologist office is only as scary as you make it to be. It is important to visit your gynecologist once a year to ensure that you do not have anything harmful to your health. Your doctor is able to observe and treat any number of STIs, any form of cancer within your reproductive organs, as well as any other issue you may have. While I may not enjoy visiting my gynecologist, I feel reassured that my health is safer for visiting mine.