First GYN Visit
The thought of your first visit to a gynecologist may seem mysterious or even frightening – but it doesn’t have to. In fact, your first gynecologic visit is a good way for you and your provider to get to know each other. It’s also an opportunity to get honest, expert information about many different issues, including:
- your body and how it’s changing
- diet and exercise
- cramps and problems with your period
- emotional ups and downs
- sex and sexuality
- birth control
- sexually transmitted infections
- alcohol, drugs, and smoking
Talking with your health care provider about these issues is an important part in staying healthy. You also can find out what to expect at future gynecologic visits.
In the meantime, we hope this web page will give you an idea of what to expect. This knowledge should help you be more comfortable with your first gynecologic exam, and even help you take more of an active part in something that should become a regular part of your adult life: what is known as a “well woman exam”.
What to expect in your first gynecologic exam
Young women should begin to see an OB/GYN around the time when they become sexually active or when they experience problems with their menstrual period. You should see a gynecologist at age 21 if you have not already done so.
Most gynecologic visits include the following:
Physical screening. A nurse or medical assistant will measure your height, weight and blood pressure, and ask you questions regarding your age, your most recent menstrual period, any previous pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions or surgeries, your use of birth control, and any personal or family history. You may be given vaccination shots if you need them.
If you are experiencing any problems or if you are sexually active, the following may occur:
Preparation for the examination. You may be escorted to the physician’s office for more questions or be given a cloth gown and a few minutes to change into it.
The physical exam. Many gynecologic examinations start with the patient in a sitting position. During this part of the exam, your heart, lungs, thyroid glands, and breasts may be examined. After this, you may be asked to lie down. Then your breast examination will continue and your abdomen may be gently pressed.
External genital exam. While you are still lying down and covered by a sheet, you will be asked to put your feet in footrests (also called “stirrups”). The practitioner will lift the sheet and check your genitals for unusual color or tone, and for things such as sores, lesions or discharge. If you have any specific questions, you can request a mirror and show the provider any areas that concern you.
Vaginal examination. The physician or midwife then uses a medical instrument called a speculum, which is then inserted into the vagina so that the cervix can be seen.
Pap test (usually just for women age 21 and over). As part of the vaginal exam, the provider will use a small brush to collect a sample of surface tissue from your cervix. This sample will be used to test for cervical cancer and certain types of infection. This part of the procedure can be a little uncomfortable, and it may cause spotting later.
Bimanual exam. After the speculum is removed, the physician may check the size of your uterus, see if there is any pain when your cervix is moved, feel your ovaries, and check for abnormalities in the pelvic area. This part of the exam is done manually, with the practitioner using lubricated gloved fingers and the pressure of her other hand against your abdomen. A rectal exam may also be conducted.
Preparing for your first gynecologic exam
Here are a few suggestions for preparing for your appointment:
- When you call the office, tell the scheduler that this will be your first gynecologic examination.
- If there is a specific reason for your appointment, such as a problem with your period, let the scheduler know.
- If you prefer to have someone accompany you during your exam, let the scheduler know, and ask about the office’s policies.
- If this is a non-emergency visit, try to schedule it between menstrual periods.
- For two days prior to the exam, do not use tampons, douches, or insert anything into your vagina (avoid intercourse or other penetration).
- If you have questions for the physician or midwife, write them down ahead of time.
- Be prepared to discuss your medical history and current medications including vitamins and supplements, and bring old medical records if you have them.