The thought of having the first gynecological exam could be a bit awkward for the young women at the beginning. The most important thing is to overcome that dose of fear so you can make healthy habits and maintain good gynecological health. This exam’s primary function is to detect some severe conditions early and help you treat them effectively. If you find them on time, this simple exam could save your life. We at the Women’s Center Fort Lauderdale wanted to say something more about the annual gynecological exam and how the whole procedure looks like.
Before Your Gynecological Exam
On average, the first annual gynecological exam should be performed between the ages of 18 and 21, especially when women become sexually active. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15 that will be probably just a simple conversation about sexual activity and birth control. On the other hand, if you are experiencing some of the unusual symptoms in your menstrual cycle, pelvic pain, or even breast changes, you should visit your gynecologist anytime.
The first step is choosing the right clinic. When making your first appointment, maybe it would be best to mention that this is actually your first exam. It’s good to share this information with your health providers, so they can help you relax and explain the whole process one more time. On the other side, if you feel more comfortable, you can always bring your mom, sister, or best friend to be with you. Don’t use vaginal creams or have sex at least 24 hours before the exam, and last but not least, if you have your period, call your doctor and reschedule. Other than that, there is not that much you can do to prepare for the annual gynecological exam.
What to Expect at Annual Gynecological Exam?
Gynecological exam should be part of the annual physical exam checklist for females. That physical exam includes a urine sample, internal and external pelvic floor exam, breast exam, and pap smear. Let’s talk about it a bit more:
- Pelvic Floor Exam
You’ll need to lie on the examining table in a dressing gown with your legs in stirrups for this exam. If you feel more comfortable, maybe you should wear a skirt.
It may sound impossible, but you need to relax. Try taking a deep breath. Generally, this exam is not painful unless you tense your muscles. Your doctor will look for abnormalities like irritation, cysts, or any indication of sexually transmitted diseases on your labia and vulva during the external exam.
This is the end of the typical external exam. The next step includes using a special tool called a speculum. Your doctor will put the speculum into the vagina and open it slightly to separate the walls of the vagina so he can examine the cervix. It’s not painful at all, just a little bit cold. Just remember to stay relaxed and communicate with your health provider. When your speculum is in place, the next step is the Pap Smear test.
- Pap Smear Test
This test is significant for checking precancerous and cancerous cells. It’s more than necessary to do it every time on your annual gynecological exam, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Performing the test is really quick, and it involves taking a sample of your cervical cells. No, it doesn’t hurt at all. It just feels like a small pinch. You’ll probably need to wait a few days for the results.
After this test, your doctor will remove the speculum, and then comes the bimanual exam for checking your ovaries and uterus. It’s usually done with a gloved and lubricated finger that is inserted into the vagina. With the other hand, your gynecologist will press down on your stomach, and that pressure can be uncomfortable.
- Breast Exam
This is an easy part of the examination. Your doctor will palpate your breast, feeling for lumps or some abnormalities. A breast exam is totally painless. The last step is learning how to give yourself a personal breast exam. It’s crucial for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. There is no single test that can do this. If you perform this examination every month, you can increase the odds of early detection.
How Long Does Annual Gynecological Exam Take?
It’s actually a very quick procedure. Only the examination part lasts about 10-15 minutes. If you want to consult your doctor about birth control or have any other questions, it takes up to 30 minutes.
Why Is This Exam So Important?
Having an annual gynecological exam is more than necessary for female health. If you visit a gynecologist every year or sooner, you can prevent severe diseases like breast cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and others. The sooner you recognize the signs of the disease there are greater the chances of successful treatment without any consequences. We hope that all these facts will encourage you to take a few minutes every month for the breast exam. At least what you can do is to dedicate yourself to your health and listen to your body first.