If you’ve never been to see a gynecologist, you may be wondering what to expect during your first gynecological visit. First, let’s discuss what a gynecologist is. A gynecologist (GYN) is a physician specialist, a doctor who has chosen to specialize in the area of women’s health. Obstetrics deals with the health of the pregnant woman, and while most gynecologists are also obstetricians, the field of gynecology focuses specifically on all the other aspects of a woman’s reproductive health outside of pregnancy, starting from the onset of puberty and continuing through menopause and beyond. Women see a gynecologist for their annual pelvic exam and Pap smear test and for infections, pain or discomfort in the breasts, genital area, or uterus. Your gynecologist can also assist you with any infertility issues and contraception.
As a young woman, your first gynecological visit should take place between the ages of 13 and 15, and these visits should continue annually through menopause, as directed by your doctor. Being faithful to see your gynecologist a minimum of once a year can help catch any small health issues before they become complicated or threaten your health. During the first visit, you should discuss any questions, fears, or health issues you have. For this reason, your health care provider should be someone of your choosing, male or female, young or older, doctor or nurse practitioner, with whom you feel comfortable and at ease. You have the right to change your gynecologist at any point, for any reason, and you are not required to explain why.
During your first visit, a nurse or physician’s assistant will measure basics like your weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. The doctor may examine your neck, heart, lungs, and stomach to obtain an idea of your overall health and establish a baseline to use for comparisons in future exams. Next, you will undergo a breast exam and brief pelvic exam to assess the general health of your breasts and reproductive system. Most women won’t need an internal pelvic exam before the age of 21, unless problems are present such as unusual vaginal discharge, painful periods, or heavy bleeding. Any questions you ask or information exchanged between you and your doctor will be strictly confidential, including anything regarding contraception, STDs, pregnancy, and sexuality.
Some questions your gynecologist will ask during your visit include:
• When was your last period?
• Are you having any problems with your period, such as pain or heavy bleeding?
• Do you have any unusual vaginal discharge or discomfort in the vaginal area?
• Are you experiencing any itchiness or genital sores?
• Are you sexually active?
• Are you using birth control and STD protection?
• Do you think you could be pregnant?
It’s important to answer truthfully, as your answers can help the doctor decide which tests should be run and what issues should be discussed. Checking for the presence of an STD is not a normal part of an initial exam, but if you are sexually active it is recommended that you be tested. Results are confidential. Your GYN can take care of yeast and bacterial infections, breast problems, diagnosing and prescribing treatment for irregular and/or painful menstruation, painful intercourse, performing dilation and curettage (D&C), endometrial or uterine biopsies including cone biopsies (removal of precancerous cells in the cervix), pelvic ultrasounds, and treating chronic or life-threatening conditions such as endometriosis, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine prolapse. Your gynecologist can also perform specific surgical procedures related to female reproductive organs such as tubal ligation, removal of the ovaries, removal of fallopian tubes, and removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
Annual visits to your gynecologist are often referred to as “well woman visits” and are recommended as a way to stay on top of any health issues that may arise. At Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health, our medical professionals provide complete, personalized, comprehensive care for all phases of a woman’s life, from puberty through your child bearing years, through menopause and beyond. Our staff is dedicated to providing Colorado’s female population with complete healthcare, no matter what stage of life you are experiencing. Give us a call today at (719) 634-8800 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping you achieve your best health.