An annual exam with your gynecologist is recommended to all women once they have turned 18. As you age, you go for different reasons, get tested for different things and discuss different concerns. Regardless of age, an annual exam is the minimum to keep yourself at optimal health.
How to prepare:
Before your appointment, check your calendar because they may ask you the dates of your last menstruation. This is to ensure that you do not schedule your exam when you are menstruating. Before your appointment, the nurse may ask you to urinate in a cup. This is done so that you can be as comfortable as possible during the exam and to run a few necessary tests.
What to expect:
- The doctor will examine your pelvis to look for signs of illness within certain organs like your:
- Vulva (external genital organs)
- Uterus (the womb)
- Cervix (opening from the vagina to the uterus)
- Fallopian tubes (these carry eggs to the womb)
- Ovaries (the organs that produce eggs)
- Bladder (the sac that holds urine)
- Rectum (the chamber the connects the colon to the anus)
The exam itself usually takes around ten minutes. If it’s your first time, ask your doctor to walk you through the procedure to help make the situation as comfortable as possible.
Here’s how your exam will work:
- You will be asked to remove your clothes and to change into a gown.
- The doctor will ask you about any health concerns.
- You will be asked to lie on the examination table and relax.
- Your doctor will press down on your lower stomach area to feel certain organs from the outside.
- You may be asked to slide down the table and place your feet in stirrups for the next part of the exam.
- The speculum exam will be next. The speculum will be inserted in to the vagina to open and widen it so that the cervix can be seen.
- Your doctor will use a small plastic spatula and brush to take cell samples from your cervix.
- Next, the speculum will be removed and a bimanual exam will be conducted, where your doctor will place two fingers in the vagina to check the organs internally.
- Afterward you will have some time to chat about the exam.
- The cell samples will be tested and screened for cervical cancer cells or any sexually transmitted diseases.
- Ask your nurse how you will receive your results.
- If you have any follow up questions after you leave, you can always call the office to speak with your doctor.
Questions and discussion topics to ask your doctor:
- If your doctor took a blood sample, ask what he or she will test.
- Discuss what is important to understand about your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.
- Ask how and when you will be notified if there is a concern with your cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure or what constitutes a concern.
- Talk to your doctor about your diet, exercise plan and sleep schedule.
- Do you have regular menstruation cycles? If not, speak up!
- If you are sexually active, ask your doctor about the best way to be safe.
- Ask which vaccinations are typical for your age and if you need any (i.e. tetanus, boosters, etc.).
- Have an honest conversation with your physician about your current stress or anxiety and how to manage it.
- Do you have joint and/or muscle pain? Discuss it at your appointment.
- What medical history information do you need to get from your family?
- What supplements and/or vitamins are recommended for someone your age?
- Ask when you should start getting mammograms.