Finding Eve returns with Part Two of this first-timer’s guide. (Click here for Part One.)
During your appointment:
- LISTEN! You will be given a series of instructions throughout your appointment. Things will generally be more comfortable for you if you follow them. They may want the paper gown to open in the front or the back or the side. They may want you sitting, standing, lying on your back. Just pay attention and things will go much more smoothly.
- Be vocal. Now that you’re getting into the stirrups and down to business, it’s up to you to make sure your doctor knows how you feel. For example, if you have a bad back and lying a certain way hurts, let the doctor know she or he will usually be happy to accommodate.
- Remember your breasts. Most, but not all, gynecologists will give your breasts a once-over to check for lumps, bumps, and irregularities. So, be prepared for this. This might be the most awkward you’ll feel since the doctor will be nearly face-to-face with you at this point.
- Be prepared for some unusual sensations. No matter your level of comfort with your genitalia, your first appointment with the OB/GYN will be something new. The doctor will need to insert a few things in your vagina. It’s an unavoidably strange situation, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare, so be prepared for the following:
- The first thing in will generally be a speculum. This is a device that goes in to spread the vaginal walls to allow the doctor to see in. There will be bright lights focused on your vagina to aid in this. While the doctor looks around, she or he will also use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix. You’ll barely be able to feel the swab, so don’t be too worried about it. The swab is then sent away for testing to see if you have (pre-)cancerous cells. This is called a Pap smear. REMEMBER, this only tests for one type of gynecologic cancer (cervical). Keeping track of your periods and pelvic health is your best bet for detecting other types of cancer.
- After the swab for the Pap smear has been collected the doctor will “manipulate” your pelvis. That is to say, it’s time for the rough and tumble part of the exam. Really, it is not as bad as it sounds or may look in the diagram below. (Believe me, I have had several severe pelvic surgeries and I make it through the pelvic manipulation fine.) This, to me, is the most important part of the exam. The doctor is using her or his hands to “see” what’s inside you and to make sure all is well. It’s normal to grimace. It’s not the most normal feeling, but it will soon be over!
- Ask questions! Generally, after the manual exam, the doctor says you can sit up. This is your invitation to ask questions. Since this is your first time, you should ask as many questions as you want. Many doctors’ offices will schedule first-timers with longer appointments because they expect the patients to have more questions. Don’t be shy. If there is any thing that you don’t understand or have reservations about below the belt, ASK! The doctor will be able to help explain whatever it may be, and this will put your mind at ease.
- Follow through! If the doctor recommends that you take care of yourself with some therapy, medicine, or change, do it. If it is something drastic, feel free to go to another doctor for a second opinion. It is your body, after all.
- If you are having testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you may be asked to make another appointment at a lab. Larger doctors’ offices usually have their own lab, so you may be escorted across the hall to have blood taken. If you’re afraid of having blood drawn, be prepared! Drawing blood is crucial to many standard gynecological tests, so don’t be worried if you’re referred for blood work.
- Keep in touch. You will most likely receive your test results (Pap smear, blood work, etc.) in the mail or over the phone in the subsequent two week. If, after 2-4 weeks, you have not heard anything, call your doctor’s office! You paid for those tests, so you have the right to know how they turned out. Things can get lost in the mail or misplaced, so take the reins and find out. The office staff won’t begrudge you at all.
- Remember to make an appointment for next year. You should never go more than a year without a visit to the gynecologist’s. Most insurance will only cover one visit in a 365 day period, so if you went on May 1st one year, you will have to wait until least May 1st of the next year.
After your appointment:
Remember, this guide is intended as a rough guide to your first visit. No two appointments will ever be identical. It is important to do what is right for you. Please feel free to add your comments and questions and thanks for reading!