What I wish I knew when I made my first gynecologist appointment
The other day I did something that I never could have possibly imagined I would ever do. I live-tweeted my annual appointment at the gynecologist. It had come to my attention lately that so many of my friends had either never been to the lady doctor or had not been in so long they couldn’t even remember their last visit. The reasons ranged from “it’s scary” to “I moved and didn’t feel like finding a new doctor” and “I feel fine, I don’t need to go.”
So I figured leading up to my appointment I would tweet some facts and statistics about why it’s important to keep on top of your health coupled with some personal stories of past visits so that others could see that going to the gyno didn’t have to something terrifying. Then I gave some details while I was at my appointment, some advice, a few more anecdotes and made sure to reiterate how fast the actual pap smear is, and how it’s over before you know it. But it got me thinking about how now I have several years of visits behind me and it’s easy for me to say “it’s fine just go!” I too was afraid back when it was time for my first ever appointment with one. So I decided to put together my list of what I wish I knew when I took my first trip to the OBGYN. These are just my experiences and yours can be totally different, but maybe these will help with your first appointment.
The pap smear—the part that sounds the scariest—is over in no time
For real. The biggest part of the whole exam happens so quickly that you realize the worst part was the anticipation of it and waiting to be called in from the reception area. Is the speculum the most comfortable thing in the world? Not quite (it’s a little cold!) but if you do your best to relax instead of tense up (I know that can be easier said than done) it’s really just some pressure, a quick swab and it’s all done. And for all the tests that can be run to make sure everything is ok down there, a few brief moments of discomfort is worth it.
Doctors are there to help you, not judge
You can ask all sorts of questions. Gross ones. TMI ones. Ones out of plain old curiosity that have nothing to do with your current activities. Need birth control? Just have questions about it? Your doc will answer every one and give you info that you need about your body and health. As convenient as it may be to group text our friends for period cramp remedies, remember that your friends are not doctors. So if you’re having any sort of issue with your body that is causing you pain or you’re not understanding, this is the time to ask. It’s all confidential. And be honest! They can’t know what to screen for or test you for if you’re not giving the whole story. They are not there to give you side eye, they are there to help you. I promise.
It’s going to be awkward, but it’s really not a big deal
You slide your butt down on a table and put your feet in stirrups. Not your everyday pose, but it’s necessary for the exam, and like I mentioned, you won’t be in this position for long. It’s really not that big a deal
Talk to your doctor about stuff like HPV
The Human Papilloma Virus will effect three out of four women in their lifetime, so it’s a little crazy that when I was diagnosed with it at twenty three—without any symptoms to speak of—I had barely even heard of it. There was not a vaccine in existence back then, but now there is and with so much information on the internet about it, your doctor is the best source to inquire if it’s right for you. Ask those questions! It’s your body, take control over what’s best for it.
It’s similar to going to a regular physician but one doesn’t replace the other
When you go to your regular doctor you go for two reasons. Either you don’t feel well, or you’re going for a physical. Same goes for seeing the gynecologist. If you’re feeling discomfort from your period or during or after sexual activity, or you develop symptoms you can’t explain, you make an appointment. But you also go for a standard well woman visit for the same reason you should get an annual physical from your general practitioner. Going for “healthy” visits while it may seem unnecessary, sets a baseline for your body so any changes or concerns can be more easily tracked as you get older.
It is totally ok to be nervous!
I was SO nervous for my first visit. My palms were sweating, I was shaking a little. I wasn’t comfortable with the first doctor that I went to, so I decided to go to a different one that my mom recommended and after that it was smooth sailing. Try to get a recommendation from someone you trust. It helps with the nerves. And go with your mom or a friend if you can.
Your body is your own, and you get to decide what to do with it
I wish I knew back then that I could more openly talk about going to the gynecologist and what my visit entailed. And if you’re like me and feeling that way, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @ellesep and I promise that you can tell me all your fears about making an appointment with the lady doctor.
And if you don’t have insurance to go to a doctor, check out the Planned Parenthood locations in your area and talk to them about scheduling an exam.
[Image via Shutterstock]