Ah, the first gynecologist appointment—the DREAD of your youth. For some girls, the thought of having their first pelvic exam is an absolute nightmare. A doctor seeing you naked, poking and prodding, seeing your most intimate of places? No, thank you.
At your appointment, you’ll meet with a gynecologist *sometimes called a gyno, or your ob-gyn* or surgeon who specializes in the field of female genitals and deals with all sorts of vagina-related issues. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and, as strange as it might seem, this is a necessity for maintaining good sexual health! Doctors recommend a yearly pelvic exam to make sure you’re healthy and free from any unwanted infections or diseases. It might be awkward at first, but having this test done regularly is a win/win!
Take your nerves down a notch, because we’re looking at tips, tricks, and everything else you need to know about your first pelvic exam in order to feel more comfortable and less stressed!
Age and the gynecologist
Does age play a factor in booking a gyno appointment? Yes and no. Some say that gyno checkups should begin around puberty, or at least by age 18-21 *depending on where you live* to ensure proper health. That being said, a fuller exam will be performed if you are no longer a virgin, prompting many women to wait until engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time before booking an appointment, regardless of age. [Read: First time sex and the virgin’s guide to nailing it]
However, young or old, if you are experiencing any odd symptoms coming from down south, or are looking to get on birth control, you should definitely book with your gyno! [Read: 10 birth control options and what each of them do for you]
Why women get nervous
Stripping down, breast exams, stirrups…spreading? These little gyno tidbits sound like a nightmare. It’s true that, while gyno visits aren’t exactly preferable to eating a fudge brownie or getting a manicure, they are a necessary and responsible part of growing up. If you have your first gyno appointment coming up and are flooded with nerves, don’t worry: everyone else has them their first time, too. Here’s why:
#1 Getting naked. It’s normal to be uncomfortable getting naked in front of a medical professional, even if, logically, you know they see naked people all day long. That being said, remind yourself that this is their job, and no matter your weight or the appearance of your breasts, nipples, or vagina, what you look like naked makes no difference to your doctor. In fact, she’s probably seen it all!
Also, it’s not like you’re going to be standing there stark naked. This would make small talk a little uncomfortable, don’t you think? While waiting in the exam room, a nurse will come in and instruct you to change into a papery robe. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it definitely offers you the chance to cover up when your gyno isn’t in need of examining you.
#2 Uncomfortable with the doctor. Were you sent to a male gyno, and now you’re totally freaking out? Don’t worry about it. While they’re all professionals, it may be a bit strange for you to strip down in front of a man and have him examine your private areas. It’s easy enough to request a female doctor. Many women feel much more comfortable opening up in front of a woman—not to mention being examined by one!
#3 The sights, smells, and sounds. Funny as it might sound, women worry about the sights and smells that their doctor might encounter while they’re…erm…down south. After all, they are getting up close and personal with your personal areas. Again, trust that your doctor is used to everything that comes along with examining the female genitalia. Have a good wash and shave before you go to your appointment to put those “smell” worries to rest. [Read: A complete guide to making your vagina smell good and taste even better]
What happens during the test : virginity, pap testing, and personal questions
During your exam, your doctor will do a general exam of your body and ask you some questions about your sexual activities, health issues, smoking or drinking habits, menstruation issues, and will also check your height, weight, and blood pressure.
Next, your doctor will examine your breasts and check them for lumps. She will also teach you how to perform a self-exam, so be sure to pay attention! Some doctors even have fun, boob shaped pillows containing lumps to add a little levity to the situation.
Be open with your doctor about your nerves and about your wishes during the exam. For example, if you are a virgin, definitely let them know! By giving them this information ahead of time, your doctor will avoid doing an internal pap test and will keep your hymen in tip-top shape.
If you’re not a virgin, or have no beef with your doctor performing a more intimate physical exam, your pelvic exam will commence. Your doctor will examine your vulva, and check your opening. You may also have a pap test done, during which a speculum *think “carjack” for your vagina* will be inserted into your vagina and your doctor will collect a swab sample to make sure your cervix is healthy. [Read: 7 problems down there you should never ignore]
This exam should, in total, take less that 15-20 minutes to complete, and doesn’t hurt at all.
Above all, be honest!
Some of the questions your gynecologist will ask may seem awkward, especially if you are there to get testing done. Questions such as, “How many partners have you been with?” or “Do you have anal sex?” probably aren’t going to be shining moments for you to discuss with a stranger, but as with any doctor, honesty is the best policy.
If you’re worried about all this information getting back to your parents, don’t be; unless your behaviors are putting your life at risk, your doctor will be under a confidential arrangement to keep your visit between you and her.
Your first gynecologist appointment may be a little scary, but after that initial exam, we swear it gets easier. Take a deep breath, relax, and don’t forget to wash!