During the adolescent years, it's important to begin seeking proper gynecological care when appropriate for early detection of certain conditions and diseases that affect female health. Young women should schedule their first well woman exam between the ages of 13-18, according to ACOG. As your family doctor cares for your physical health, your gynecologist cares for your reproductive health and is available to:
- Explain your monthly menstrual cycle
- Discuss birth control
- Learn about sexually transmitted diseases
- Screen for reproductive cancers
- Receive pregnancy planning assistance
- Screen for breast cancer
Here's what you can expect during the first of many visits to your gynecologist.
How to Prepare for Your First Well Woman Exam Visit
Many young women are afraid of their first well woman exam, but rest assured that your doctor will make your visit as comfortable as possible. You can even choose to see a man or woman gynecologist and invite a trusted female adult to join you for the appointment. After you schedule your first visit, write down when your last period started, how long it lasted, and how often you normally get it. Bring a list of your medications and vitamins, too. You'll also want to write down any questions you may have about your body and your sexual and reproductive health.
What Happens During the First Well Woman Exam Visit
Before the actual exam starts, a nurse will take your vital signs and ask you questions about your general health, everyday lifestyle, and family health history. It's important to be completely honest regarding questions about exercise and nutrition, menstrual cycle, sexual behavior, and smoking and alcohol consumption, so that your physician can accurately assess your health. When the preliminary questions are over, you'll be given privacy to change into a paper gown and sit on the table. Depending on your age and health concerns the following exams may be conducted.
The doctor will exam your breasts by lightly pressing on them to detect lumps or tissues changes. The doctor may also do a visual check for nipple discharge or changes in shape and skin texture. These exams are an important part of early detection for breast cancer so that the doctor can assess anything suspicious and determine whether or not further diagnostic measures are necessary.
The doctor will now examine the external genital area, or the vulva, to make sure everything's healthy. Normally, your first visit will not include an internal pelvic exam where the doctor examines the inside of your vagina with a speculum to evaluate the upper vagina and cervix. However, if you are sexually active or have painful periods, abnormal bleeding or unusual discharge, the doctor will want to make sure your reproductive organs are in the right position and check for other problems. This is done by checking internal organs with a gloved hand. Depending on age, a Pap test may be conducted to check for changes in the cells of the cervix. A speculum is used to take a sample of cells is taken from your cervix with a small brush.
Visiting the gynecologist for your first well women exam Houstoncan be intimidating , but knowing what to expect removes some of the mystery and increases your comfort. Also, it's important to remember that this visit paves the way for a positive and trusting relationship with your gynecologist who partners in your sexual and reproductive health now and into the future.