First Gynecologist Exam: What To Expect
Gynecological (gyn) exams are an important part of maintaining a woman’s health. But many of us feel nervous about getting an exam, especially for the first time. Whether you’re nervous or just curious about what to expect in your first gynecological visit, the information on this page may be helpful.
What Is a Gyn Exam?
Gyn exams focus on your sexual and reproductive health. During this exam you can ask questions and talk with your healthcare provider about the changes taking place in your body and any concerns that you have. Regular gyn exams can help make sure that you’re healthy and that your body is developing as it should.
As a part of your gyn exam, your healthcare provider may:
• take a medical history
• conduct a general physical exam
• test for sexually transmitted infections (through a urine, blood, or cervical test)
• conduct a breast exam
• perform vaccinations
• discuss with you any issues that come up during your visit
• perform a pelvic exam
What is a Pelvic Exam?
The pelvic exam is one component of the gyn exam. Not all gyn exams require a pelvic examination.
A pelvic exam is an examination of your pelvic area, including your vulva and your internal reproductive organs — your cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina. During a pelvic exam, your doctor or nurse looks for signs of infection and other conditions. The exam may include taking a few cells from your cervix for a Pap test; this can help protect you from cervical cancer.
When should I have my first gynecological exam?
You should begin having regular gyn exams between the ages of 13 and 15. Most often these early visits do not include a pelvic exam, unless you‘re having a problem. If you’re sexually active, you may undergo a screen for sexually transmitted infections, but many of these tests can be performed through urine screening.
Pelvic exams should be performed annually for patients who are 21 or older. They can also be done sooner if a patient is having medical concerns. Medical concerns that may warrant a pelvic exam include vaginal bleeding, discharge, or itching, pelvic pain, and sores or lumps on the vulva or vagina.
What happens during a pelvic exam?
During a pelvic exam, your healthcare provider will ask you to undress and put on a paper or cloth gown. Next, you will be asked to lie face-up on the exam table and put your feet on footrests at the end of the table. You can cover your lower abdomen and thighs with a sheet to feel less exposed. Relax as much as you can: pelvic exams are generally more comfortable and thorough if your buttocks, stomach and vaginal muscles are relaxed.
Pelvic exams may consist of four parts:
1. The External Exam
Your healthcare provider will look at the folds of your vulva and the opening of your vagina. This part of the exam checks for signs of discharge, warts, irritations and other conditions.
2. The Speculum Exam
During this part of the exam, your healthcare provider will gently insert a lubricated medical instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum separates the walls of the vagina when it opens. This may feel uncomfortable but should not be painful. Your healthcare provider will then use a small brush or a tiny spatula to take a small sample of cells from your cervix. This sample will be used to perform a Pap test to see if there is any pre-cancer. To test for sexually transmitted disease or infection, your healthcare provider can also use a cotton swab to collect discharge from your cervix. Be sure to speak up if you think you may be at risk of having a sexually transmitted infection.
3. The Bimanual Exam
In this part of the exam, your healthcare provider will insert one or two gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina while gently pressing on your lower abdomen with the other hand. By checking on the size, shape and position of the uterus, as well as looking for any tenderness or pain, you can be checked for a variety of conditions ranging from pregnancy, fibroids and infections.
4. The Rectovaginal Exam
To check for tumors or other irregularities behind the uterus, on the lower wall of the vagina, or in the rectum, your healthcare provider may put a gloved finger into your rectum. You may feel like you need to have a bowel movement during this part of the exam. This is normal and only lasts a few seconds.
How often should I have a gyn exam?
How often you will need a pelvic exam or a gyn exam will depend on your medical history and your personal health needs. This is something you will discuss with your healthcare provider.
You may need more frequent exams if you have:
• A history of sexual health problems
• A history of abnormal pap test results or a family history of certain types of cancer
• A sexually transmitted infection or a sexual partner with an infection
• Recurring vaginitis