A girl’s first trip to the gynecologist can be scary, but it really shouldn’t be. Seeing a gynecologist is a critical part of keeping healthy and well as a woman, especially as you enter into adulthood. 

Whether you are sexually active or not, seeing a gynecologist should be on your agenda. If you’re a sexually active teen, you should be seeing a gynecologist. Regardless of any sexual activity, all women should be seeing one by age 21. Unless there’s something wrong, you’re pregnant, or you’re dealing with some other issue, you will usually see a gynecologist once a year. Of course, if you’re concerned about anything regarding your reproductive health, you should go more frequently or at least stay in touch. Most gynecological visits will be routine check-ins, but here’s what you can expect from your first visit and what you should know going in. 

Information to bring

Going to any new doctor means coming prepared with information about your medical history, including any allergies. If you’re gynecologist is in the same network, they may have immediate access to your full file, but you should be prepared anyway. Be prepared to know the date of your last period and estimates for how regular you are or aren’t. This can be important information to talk about with your doctor.  Most doctors will ask you about your sexual history, including if you’ve ever been pregnant, had a miscarriage, had an abortion, or had an STD or STI. Don’t lie. It will never benefit you in a doctor’s office. Also know if you are up to date on shots like Tetanus, HPV, et cetera. 

Hygiene and clothing

Everyone has their own preferences about how they like to roll in to a gyno appointment. I don’t know anyone who advocates running a marathon in the mud and then stripping down, but at the same time, you don’t need to take extra hygiene measures you wouldn’t normally take. Don’t do anything to your reproductive parts that might throw off the pH such as using strong soaps, douches, etc. It’s also not recommended to have sex 24 hours before an appointment that will involve an internal exam. Clothing wise, wear what you’ll be comfortable taking on and off. I’ve done it in jeans and skirts, and it didn’t matter too much.

Honesty is the best policy

As I mentioned earlier, lying to your doctor isn’t going to serve you. Ever. Just answer their questions. Their not there to judge you or shame you, but they can’t help you if you aren’t honest. Admit if your period has been irregular. Afraid you might be pregnant? Admit it. Admit if you’ve had an abortion, or an STD, or unprotected sex, or if you smoke. If there is someone there with you that makes you uncomfortable to answer these questions honestly, either you or your doctor should ask them to step out for your own privacy and the doctor can best serve you. A gyno appointment is about caring for your reproductive health. It shouldn’t be about worrying what your mom thinks. 

The breast exam

Most appointments will include a breast exam, where the doctor has you raise your hand above your head and they feel for lumps or abnormalities. This is normal and you usually don’t get a mammogram until you are older or there is cause for concern. If you’ve ever thought you felt a lump before, talk to your doctor about this, show them, et cetera. 

The pap smear

The pap smear is probably the most dreaded part of a gyno exam, but it is honestly necessary and not the worst thing in the world. Plus, if you’re young, and it’s normal, you usually only have to have them done once every three years. A pap smear tests for cervical cancer but don’t worry, we’ve moved away from those cold metal speculums and onto plastic ones that are much better. You’ll lay back, scoot your bum to the end of the table, and the doctor will insert the speculum and slowly open it. You may feel pain and pressure, and a little bit is normal, but if it’s excruciating, you should speak up. That’s not normal, and it may signal to your doctor they need to investigate something. From there, the doctor will likely swap your cervix with a really long Q-tip, and yes it will feel weird, but then your mostly done. 

The pelvic exam

Usually done in conjunction with a pap smear, a pelvic exam involves the doctor’s gloved fingers checking inside you for any abnormalities. Like with a pap smear, you may feel pressure, but if you feel genuine, intense pain, let your doctor know. He or she will likely press into you with lubricated, gloved fingers and then press on your abdomen from the outside. If you feel pain at any point, speak up. 

STD Testing

If you’re sexually active, you should undergo regular STD and STI testing. This is usually included with a gynecological visit and may include an extra swab during a pap smear or a quick draw or blood. Take the test, girls. Seriously. It’s always better to know, and if something does come back, ask the doctor any and all questions you might have about treatment. 

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While these are the basics you need to know for your first appointment (and most subsequent ones) it is important that you remember that the relationship between a patient and a doctor, especially one dealing with such personal areas, should be one that makes you feel comfortable. If a doctor makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you are allowed to request that a parent be with you, a nurse stays in the room, or that you change doctors. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up, ask questions, and know that you have a right to feel comfortable. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member