Part of growing up is learning how your body works and learning the best ways to stay healthy. An important part of staying healthy is to have regular gynecological exams beginning at age 18, or within 3 years of becoming sexually active.
It is normal to feel nervous about your first visit to a gynecologist. At Capital Women's Care, we take extra care to make sure you understand what to expect during your exam and to help you feel as comfortable as possible.
During the first part of the exam, one of our nurses checks your height, weight and blood pressure. The nurse then asks you to remove your clothes once she leaves the room; you are given a hospital-type gown to put on.
When your doctor comes in, he or she asks you questions about your general health, including questions about your menstrual period and sexual activities. You then lie back on the examining table for your breast and pelvic exams.
If the doctor is male, a female nurse remains in the room during your exam. You can also ask a family member or friend to stay with you during the exam if it makes you feel more comfortable
During your breast exam, your doctor checks your breasts for growth and signs of any potential problems, such as a lump. The doctor examines each breast by moving his or her fingers around your breast in a pattern. You may also be shown how to perform monthly self-exams of your breasts.
During your pelvic exam, your doctor examines your vagina and cervix and checks the health of your reproductive organs. At the start of the exam, you are asked to place your feet against footrests at the end of the examining table and to slide forward. The doctor inserts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina and gently spreads the walls apart to examine the area. Specula come in various sizes and your doctor chooses the one that causes the least discomfort.
The doctor then places one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into your vagina. The other hand presses on your abdomen from the outside to check the size, position, and shape of your internal pelvic organs. The pelvic exam may feel uncomfortable, but should not hurt.
An important part of your gynecological exam is the Pap test, which is done to check for abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cancer. For this test, your doctor inserts a small cotton-tipped swab through the vagina into the cervix. Cells are removed from the cervix and sent to the laboratory to be checked for any abnormalities. The Pap test is completely painless.
Your first gynecological visit is a great chance to take charge of your ongoing health. You may feel nervous at first. Knowing what to expect during the exam will ease your fears. Also, remember that the nurses and doctors at Capital Women's Care are here to help and to make you feel as comfortable as possible.