16 Things to Know Before Your First Appointment With The Gynecologist

If you’ve just opened your butterfly wings and transformed from a child to a young woman, chances are your lady bits are doing some interesting things.… Simi - July 8, 2018

If you’ve just opened your butterfly wings and transformed from a child to a young woman, chances are your lady bits are doing some interesting things. Any young woman who has started menstruating needs to start thinking about her reproductive health. You should plan a quick checkup with the doctor specialized in this work, who is a gynecologist. A gynecologist is specialized in woman’s health and her reproductive organs. A gynecologist can also be an obstetrician, and therefore is also involved both in pregnancy and in helping women deliver their babies.

A gynecologist is also an expert in any kind of disease of the female reproductive system, including the breasts and the urinary system. Once you have become an adult woman, it is a good idea to have a specialized gynecologist examination to check your reproductive health. Your doctor will also refer you to the gynecologist if you have any problems. If you have anything like painful periods or burning pee, then you need to see a gynecologist.

The idea can be scary but preparing for the first time will make the whole thing much easier. If you know what to expect you can also fit in some time for some questions of your own. It might be the first time that you strip down to the buff and expose your nether regions to someone you have never met, but your gynecologist has seen and examined the genitals and breasts of hundreds of women.

Really, your gynecologist has seen all shapes and sizes. They will not be fazed by anything you have to show them. So now is the time to take the plunge and go and get checked out. After all, having peace of mind is way better than feeling a bit shy and if you know what to expect you will get the most from your appointment.

1. What to say when you set up the appointment

You need to phone your gynecologist’s office and ask for an appointment. It helps if you can be specific. Think about what you are going there for. If you have just started menstruating, you might need reassurance that all of your reproductive system is functioning. A girl can start her periods anywhere between 8 and 15 years. Your periods will normally start around two years after your breasts have started developing and you have armpit hair. Armpit hair is the first sign that your menarche or very first period will be arriving.

You should probably have your first checkup within two years of the arrival of all of these. If you already have breasts and armpit hair and your period has not yet arrived within a year, then you should also go to the gynecologist for a checkup. You might have amenorrhea, which is an absence of periods.

You should also see your gynecologist if your period has changed in any way, if you have more or less bleeding than usual, or if you have more painful or irregular periods. The average cycle is 28 days, but cycles range between 21 and 35 days. You cycle could be different, especially because an adolescents cycle needs time to settle down. It could even be a 45-day cycle to start with.

You also need to be clear about what else you might need to know from your gynecologist. If you need to explore any birth control options, now is the time to ask. There are many different options available, and your gynecologist will be able to tell you what is most suited to you. They discuss any issues with you, and if you are prepared, then you will be able to use the time profitably.

2. Before you go

Remember to take any medical exams that you might have already done, like blood and urine test results. Anything of your medical history that could be of interest to the gynecologist should be shared with them. If you have a referral letter from another doctor remember to take that too.

Have a quick shower so that you are feeling clean and fresh or give yourself a wash under your armpits and around your vagina. You should not be using harsh detergents as these can likely cause irritations of the mucous membranes. Also, any powders or creams or intimate sprays cannot only cause irritations, but they can also affect test results.

Write down any questions you might have so that you can remember everything you might need to know. As well as the questions it is a good idea to know your family history. The gynecologist will want to know your mother’s history and also your older sisters if you have them. If your mother had any kinds of problems, this is important information for your gynecologist.

Also, make a note of your periods. One of the questions you will most definitely be asked is when was your last period. If you are at all forgetful, it will help to have this written down. It is also important to know so that you don’t arrive there in the middle of your period. If you have a record of all your periods over a longer time span, it is even better, especially if they are irregular. You can easily find a period calendar that you can start marking them a couple of months before you decide on the checkup.

3. What happens when you get there?

You will most probably arrive at your gynecologist’s office and be met by a receptionist. By this stage, you might have already told on her on the phone that this is your first visit and why you are there. So, there is no need to blurt out your worries in front of a room full of waiting people, just give her your name and tell her whom you have an appointment with.

Many gynecologists have rooms in medical centers together with other health experts; so don’t be worried if the waiting room is full of people who don’t look like likely candidates for a gynecologist visit. There is also no need to feel embarrassed about going to see the gynecologist; it is a normal part of health care. Even if you know that you might be going to inquire about birth control, the rest of the waiting room doesn’t know that.

If you are started to feel embarrassed and sweaty, you can nip off to the bathroom and have a quick rinse. Some gynecologists have a bidet in their ladies room, so if you are feeling uncomfortable about being sweaty, you can nip into the toilet quickly and give yourself a quick wash.

If there is no bidet to wash yourself with in the bathroom, you can fill up a bottle with water and just rinse yourself while sitting on the toilet. This is not necessary, but if it makes you feel better and fresher then go ahead. If your gynecologist is going to ask you for a urine sample, then you should also drink some water and forego having a pee. If you are expecting to have a pelvic exam, it is very uncomfortable with either an empty or a very full bladder.

4. How does the appointment work?

You have been sitting in the waiting room for what seems like ages, with your heart pounding, feeling embarrassed, and finally, someone pops their head out and calls your name. What happens next? You will follow the person who has come to call you into the visiting rooms. This might be the nurse or the assistant or even the gynecologist themselves. They will sit you down at their desk and begin the appointment by asking some questions.

The first questions will start with your age, weight, and height and will establish your general level of health. They will ask you when your last period was and how regular they are. This is the moment to show your period calendar, which evidence the regularity or not of your cycle.

If they are going to give you a physical exam they might do this first and ask questions after you have dressed again. In which case you will be shown to a changing booth or asked to undress behind a screen. If they are going to test your urine, you will be given a test tube or container, and you will be asked to go to the toilet and fill that. Normally this is done separately, but if they do test your urine, it could also happen at the end of the appointment.

5. The questions

Be prepared to discuss your menstrual cycle. The gynecologist will want to know when you had your first period or menarche and how they have been ever since. They will also probably want to know how your periods are.

A typical menstrual period will last from about 3 to 5 days, and the flow of blood can also vary somewhat. You gynecologist will want to know how long yours last and what kind of blood flow you have. If your blood flow if very heavy, then they will also need to know if you are anemic. They can see this from your blood tests, and if you don’t have those, they will either do them there or give you a referral to have it done.

Any kind of very heavy or abnormal bleeding can have several causes, and your gynecologist will need to know what is causing it. Some causes are serious while others are easy to treat. You should also bear in mind that if you have just started your periods, your hormonal changes might be causing irregularities in both the flow and the regularity of your periods.

If you are having severe cramps, this is called dysmenorrhea and are often caused by an imbalance of the prostaglandin hormone. Cramps can also be caused by uterine fibroids or endometriosis, but this is more common in older women. However, your period is, you will need to be able to describe it well. In the case of any kind of problematic period, your gynecologist will look for a cause and help you with medications and painkillers.

6. You will also have to discuss your sex life

You might not yet be having sex, but you might be contemplating it. In this case, you will need to discuss birth control, so be frank about your needs and intentions. If you are already having sex, your gyno will want to know. Really there is no sweat about being frank here. Your gyno will not be judgmental. They are there to help you with your needs.

Sexually transmitted diseases also known as STDs are infections spread by sexual activity, which includes vaginal and oral sex as well as anal sex. They can be caused by yeasts, bacteria and viruses and parasites and can cause more problems for women than for men. These can be dangerous if you are pregnant, causing serious health problems for your baby.

There are many different types of SDTs, and your gynecologist will be able to give you information on the risks, prevention, and cure of these. Anybody can get STDs and teenagers are particularly at risk. Not treating them can put your health at risk and can cause infertility.

If you have any questions, now is the time to ask them. It is also the best moment, to be frank with your gynecologist even though you may have just met them.

7. Your family history

The gynecologist is also going to ask you about your mother’s health and if you have them, also about your sister’s health. A little bit of preparation here will stand you in good stead.

What you are going to want to do ahead of time is ask your mom some probing questions. First, you’ll need to know her age and what age she was when you were born. Then you should ask her if she had any problems with the pregnancy. Some of these questions might only be necessary if you are pregnant, in case there are any genetic problems that could be passed down.

If you are worried about menstrual issues, then you need to know if your mother had any and how old she was when she had her first period (her menarche). Did she or any other female in your family have endometriosis or even ectopic pregnancies? You need to know if there are any issues in your family health history. Before your appointment try to find out as much as you can about the medical history of your family, especially that of the other females.

If you have any pelvic pain associated with your period, you could have endometriosis. Although having painful periods is common when you start menstruating, severe pain could be caused by the buildup of the tissue in your womb. This is called the endometrium, and the pain is due to the congestion when the tissue also grows outside the womb. It becomes trapped in your body and causes irritation and pain. Symptoms include excessive pain during your period, pain urinating or during bowel movements.

8. What are the exams?

Firstly, the gynecologist will ask questions then they will pass on to the physical exams. This might be the part that you are most worried about, but you might not be given a pelvic exam on your first gyno visit. Normally you will have a pelvic exam if you are sexually active or if you have turned 21.

Your very first gynecological visit should include an examination of your breasts and your genitals and abdomen. They will also check your height and weight. You will need to take your clothes off for the breast exam. They might give you a small sheet to put over you, so you feel less unconformable, or they might give you an examination gown. Once you take your clothes off to have your breasts checked, remember that the gyno is not judging you and they are there for your health.

They will ask you to lie down on the examination table, and they will examine your breasts with their hands. What they are looking for is anything that is irregular, like a lump or thickening. They will palpate your whole breast all the way around with their hands. They might ask you questions while they are doing this. This might make you feel more comfortable. You could ask what they are doing so that you could learn to do a breast exam to yourself. You should do this to yourself at least once a month. Doing a self-exam is one of the best ways to find any breast lumps.

After the breast exam, they will then examine your genitals externally. The gynecologist will look at your vulva, and examine the soft folds to check for signs of redness, irritation, discharge, cysts, genital warts, or other conditions. They will also look at the opening of the vagina.

9. The pelvic exam

Once these two exams are over, there is a possibility that the gynecologist is going to carry on and do a pelvic exam. In this case, they will ask you to bend your knees and draw your feet up. Some examination beds have a stirrup-like contraption at the end and to get to these, you will have to slide all the way down to the point where your hips are almost off the edge of the examination table.

You will have to lift one leg at a time and hook them over the stirrups until they are supported under the knees. You might feel a bit unstable at first then you will realize that you are fully supported and there is no danger of you slipping off the examination table or out of the stirrups. Being exposed like this might feel a bit embarrassing, but for the doctor, it is the best possible position to be able to see properly into your pelvic area.

You might be given a drape sheet to place over your tummy, which will make you feel more secure. At this point, you need to take a deep breath and relax, try and relax your legs so that your knees fall open. Relax your abdominal and vaginal muscles and just breathe into to it. It does feel uncomfortable the first time a stranger puts their hands into your vagina, but it will be over soon, and they know what they are doing.

They will insert two fingers inside your vagina and will press with the other hand on top of your abdomen. They are looking for any swellings or growths and feeling your uterus and ovaries. This might be slightly uncomfortable but will not hurt at all.

10. The Pap smear

Once you have had the manual examination which will only take a few minutes, the gynecologist will take out the speculum. The speculum is a metallic duck-billed shaped instrument that can open its beak at the mouth of your uterus.

Before inserting it, the gynecologist will check the angle of your cervix with a finger to help angle the insertion of the speculum. Then you will feel the sensation of the instrument sliding into your vagina. It will most likely feel cold, but it should be lubricated, so it should slip in with no problems. You will then hear the sound of the speculum being screwed open, and you will feel a stretching sensation as it opens up around the mouth of your uterus.

Once the speculum is correctly in place, the doctor will have a good look, maybe even shining a torch at the mouth of your uterus. Now you are ready for the pap test. They will open a surgical packet containing swabs on a long stick. Some doctors will clean the cervix until it is free of mucus and then take a swab. Others will scrape some cells onto the swab and put it into a special solution to be sent to the laboratory for analysis.

This scraping around inside your vagina might be a bit uncomfortable. It won’t be pleasant, but it won’t hurt, and it will be over soon. There is really no way to describe the sensation, but pap tests are part of being a woman and having female reproductive organs, and they will always be a part of your life.

11. Birth control

The good news is that all the uncomfortable exams are over unless you have decided on a form of birth control that needs to be inserted like an IUD. An IUD is an Intrauterine device that will need to be inserted into your uterus, after the Pap test when you still have the speculum in place.

This can be a painful operation and often the gyno will ask you to do it when you have your period, as the mouth of the uterus is softer and slightly more open. The advantage of the IUD is that once it is inserted, you don’t have to worry about it for two years. If you have a steady partner and are not using condoms to avoid STDs, this can be a good choice.

Now is the moment to be honest with your gynecologist. If you are already sexually active or if you are planning to be soon you need to discuss birth control. You need to be able to leave their offices with what you need in hand.

Remember a doctor has a physician-patient privilege, and they will keep everything you tell them confidential. Nothing that you say will be going back to your mother or anyone else. You can make the foundations of a trusting relationship in this first appointment. Being honest with your gyno will be crucial for your health. They will need to know your sexual history to asses concerns about STDs, pregnancy, and even any concerns about domestic violence, sexual abuse or LGBTQ issues.

12. How you look is not important!

Remember you don’t have to dress up to go to your gyno, nor do you have to shave or do anything about your vaginal hair. Your doctor isn’t going to judge you for your physical structure, your being shaved, or neat or groomed in any way.

Your gyno has seen everything, and they don’t care about what your vagina looks like. They are there to ensure your health and not to judge you. They have seen it all before. What they are going to be looking for is any abnormality in your reproductive organs.

Your gynecologist will look at issues related to pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause. You can discuss family planning with them. This includes contraception, pregnancy and the termination of a pregnancy. They will also look for any problems with the tissues around the pelvic organs and any problems of the reproductive tract. They will look for the presence of cysts or abnormalities.

They will also help you with all and any type of issue with your sexuality. They will be able to advise you about any sexual dysfunctions. They can help answer your questions about same-sex sexuality. With all they have to worry about, they will not be looking at how neat your vaginal hair if, or if you are smelling of roses.

13. The exam is for you

Your gynecologist should go out of their way to make you feel comfortable during your appointment and physical exam. After all, you are there to look after yourself. If you feel in any way uncomfortable, you can always opt out of the physical exam and have it at a later stage.

You should also decide whether you feel more comfortable with a female gynecologist or a male. Both male and female gynecologists undergo the same training. In most countries, it is a further four years of specialization after a medical degree. Having a male or a female gynecologist is a different experience, and you should think about what you would prefer.

You also need to know when you feel ready to have a physical examination. You can start seeing a gynecologist within two years of starting your periods, but you don’t need a physical examination until you are sexually active or have reached 21.

Once you have started having sex, then it is a good idea to have regular check-ups and plan your contraception. You can choose when you want to have your first appointment, and you can choose who you want to have examine you.

14. Follow up call

If you have an appointment at a private clinic, then you can expect the clinic to give you a follow-up call. Your gynecologist will also want to see the results of your pap test before it is handed over to you. You might have to go to the clinic to collect the results of the Pap test, and this will be given to you in a sealed envelope.

Your doctor might want you to pop into their office to look at it together. They might have time to explain to results to you, or they might want you to schedule a follow-up visit. In this case, they will check up on any treatment they might have given you. If you have been given the birth control pill, they will want to check your blood pressure and weight and your general health, to check that your body is functioning smoothly under the new hormonal regime of the pill.

If you have had your blood and urine tested, the gyno will want to see the results along with the results of the Pap test. If the Pap test is normal, then you will only need to take that again in three years’ time. If there is anything that is not one hundred percent normal the doctor will want to have another look at it.

They should also give you antibiotics or the correct treatment for any kinds of STDs you might have. If the gynecologist gives you a prescription for anything then you can ask what it is for and what it does. Make sure you know how long you need to take it for and if it has any side effects.

15. Schedule your next appointment

Although you might have felt nervous on your first visit, now that you know what to expect you will be able to take the next appointments in your stride. You may as well get used to them because, from the time you start seeing one, you should have a gynecologist checkup at least every two years and a pap smear every three.

If you are sexually active and at risk of STDs then you should see your gynecologist at least every year. You should also be looking after your general physical health so that your weight to body mass index falls into healthy parameters and your lifestyle is healthy.

This includes eating a healthy diet, doing some exercise and not smoking. If you make good lifestyle choices, you will be able to stay healthy over time. If you keep yourself free of STDs by using a condom, you will also ensure your future reproductive health.

You will need to see the gynecologist if you have frequent lower back pain, pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, itching, pain, swellings or lumps in and around your vulva and any changes in your breast or armpits.

16. What you take home, information, treatments

After you have finished your first appointment with a gynecologist, you should know and understand a lot more about your own body and your reproductive health. Your gynecologist should have shown you how to do a breast exam on yourself and explained various contraception methods. They should also have suggested the possibility of having some specific vaccines for young women like the Human papillomavirus vaccine, or the Hepatitis A vaccine.

You need to evaluate whether these vaccines are necessary and will be good protection for you. The choice to have them is yours, and you should be informed about any side effects before you decide to have them done.

You should also have been given exhaustive information about the different types of birth control that are available to you. You should have decided together what form is best for you. If you have decided on birth control that requires a prescription, then you should leave the doctor’s office with the prescription on hand.

If you need to have a blood or urine test, or a further specialist checkup, then you should have all the prescriptions and referrals in hand when you leave. If you need to follow a treatment scheme you should know what it is, what it does and how long you will need to do it for. You should also know when you need to go back and over what kind of time period. You should know when to keep up with routine exams, tests, and immunizations.