What’s Included in an Annual Gynecological Exam?

April 4, 2016

If you’ve never been to the gynecologist, the thought of scheduling an appointment with an OB-GYN can fill you with anxiousness. After all, he or she will be examining the most private portion of your body.

However, taking care of your reproductive health is crucial. And while a gynecologist can provide you with information about birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases, you should still get examined by an OB-GYN even if you’re a virgin.

This is because in addition to reproductive issues, these types of visits also provide the following services:

– Verify that everything is developing the way it should
– Screen for cervical cancer
– Analyze your vaginal discharge (especially if it has changed in color or consistency)

If you are having sex, then the benefits of getting examined are even more, since you do want to ensure your overall health.

What is an Annual Gynecological Examination?

Ok. So now that you know of the benefits of going to the gynecologist, it’s always a good idea to understand some of the examinations that can happen during those visits.

A Well-Woman Examination is a once-a-year visit to your gynecologist to get an overview of your reproductive healthcare.

The gynecologist will begin by asking you questions about your medical and gynecological history. He or she will take note of your vitals, such as blood pressure, height, and weight.

The doctor will also ask you questions about your health and life. Some of the inquiries will be about your school, work, and family life, as well as basic questions about your diet and health status. This is because all of these circumstances factor into your overall well-being.

What Does an Annual Gynecological Exam Consist Of?

In addition to having a standard physical exam, you will also receive a pelvic exam, breast exam, and pap smear. Below is an overview of what happens during each of them.

1. Pelvic Exam

Pelvic exams are a standard procedure that’s recommended as soon as a woman becomes sexually active. If you’re still a virgin, we recommend scheduling them once you turn 21.

This simple exam may take only a few minutes, but is extremely important to every woman’s health. You’ll be given a paper robe and the doctor’s assistant will step out of the room to give you privacy to change into it.

Once you’re wearing the robe, you can sit on the examination table while you wait for the doctor to come in. The gynecologist will knock on the door before entering the office, to make sure that you’re ready for your exam.

When the OB-GYN comes in, he or she will introduce themselves and ask that you lay down on the examination table and place your feet on stirrups. These are two metal foot rests on each end of the table. Your doctor will then ask you to relax and will insert a metal tool called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum will be lubricated for easier insertion and will feel cold to the touch. However, this procedure does not hurt at all.

The reason the doctor inserts the speculum into the vagina is to open it up a bit to be able to conduct the examination. During this exam, the gynecologist will check your reproductive organs, including your vulva, vagina, cervix, and uterus.

Your physician will check for ovarian cysts, sexually transmitted infections, or certain cancers. The procedure is quick, painless and vital to your health.

2. Pap Smear

You’ll also have a pap smear performed during your pelvic exam. The procedure consists of gathering cells from your cervix by using an extended swab. It should be noted that not all pelvic exams will require a pap smear test. Paps are typically recommended every three to five years. Its purpose is to test the cells in your cervix for any signs of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. This is especially important if you have a family history of cancer or if you’ve had unprotected sex.

During your Well Woman exam, a physician will also discuss a number of different vaccines. We offer Gardasil to protect women from the human papillomavirus (HPV). During your exam, you can talk to your physician about which vaccine is right for you.

3. Breast Exam

Breast exams are very important in order to detect breast cancer early. When you get your annual exam, a breast exam will also be performed. This will happen while you’re still laying down on the examination table. The gynecologist will ask you to place one arm behind your head, and will use circular motions around each of your breasts to see if the breast tissue feels normal or if there are any noticeable lumps.

Although this examination is only done once a year, it’s also important to check yourself on a regular basis for breast cancer. You can do so every time you take a shower.

Learn how to give yourself a breast exam here.

How to Prepare for Annual Gynecological Exam

The first thing you need to do is to relax. Gynecologists do these types of tests on a daily basis, and they’ve heard every story under the sun. We are not here to judge you or make you feel vulnerable. There is nothing you can say that they’ll consider weird or unusual. Although that can sometimes be easier said than done, once you get the appointment over with, you’ll see that it sounds a lot scarier in your mind than what it actually it is in reality.

Also, keep the following pointers in mind:

– Decide whether you’d feel more comfortable with a male or female doctor before making the appointment.

– Take notes of everything you may want to discuss: Whether you’re considering having sex for the first time, whether you’re already having sex, information about your partners, whether you use birth control, whether you use protection against sexually transmitted diseases, whether you’ve noticed any changes in your period, have experienced pain or irritation, or whether there are any changes in your vaginal discharge.

– Schedule the appointment for a time when you won’t be on your period. Although it’s really not that big of a deal if you are, it’ll make you feel more at ease during your first visit.

– Drink liquids before your appointment, since you’ll have to pee in a cup before your exam.

– Always be honest with your gynecologist. Even if a detail seems too private because it has to do with your sexual life, it’s likely relevant to safeguard your health. It bears repeating: An OB-GYN is here to help you; never to judge you.

Call OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch for More Information

At OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we provide a variety of services for every woman. We are passionate about ensuring women’s health. Remember to have your Well Woman Exam every year. Call us today to schedule an appointment.