DO come up with questions beforehand.
Throughout the year, jot down any questions that pop into your head for your gynecologist. Keep this running list saved on your phone, on your laptop, or even on paper. Even if a question no longer applies when the time of your appointment rolls around, ask it anyways! It is always better to be well informed than to be left in the dark.
Some great things to ask questions about are:
- If you ever have pain during sex
- Any irregularities with your period
- Side effects from your birth control pill
- STI and STD testing
During the appointment, don’t be shy! If something sounds confusing, speak up! All doctors appreciate a curious patient as it shows that you are taking your health seriously.
DO know your medical history.
This is important for any kind of doctor’s appointment, but when it comes to seeing a gynecologist, make sure you know your medical history as well as your family’s medical history. If breast cancer or polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS) runs in the family, let the doctor know.
If you don’t know your medical history, then it is time to sit down and have a talk with your mom. As a collegiette, you are making the transition to the real world where you will be responsible for your own health. This means mom won’t be with you at your appointments and she may not be accessible when you are scrambling last minute to figure out any medical problems that run in the family. So sit down and openly ask her if anything runs in the family that you should know about. This medical history will only help you and your doctors to better assess your body and overall health.
OBGYN appointments can be stressful. Doctor’s offices already have a certain stigma, as they are commonly associated with anxiety, worry, and overall uneasiness. The key to avoiding all of these unwanted feelings is to relax. Take deep breaths while sitting in the waiting room, distract yourself by reading your favorite magazine, and get your head in the right place. Once you are called into the examination room, remember that the appointment will be over before you know it. Another important reason to relax is that all examinations – pap smear, pelvic exam, breast exam, etc. – will be quick, easy and more effective if you are calm and relaxed.
Katie, a junior at Syracuse University, admits that she gets a little nervous during her appointments. She advises, “Try focusing on breathing and thinking of something funny instead of what may be going on in the examination room.”
DO get a pap smear once you turn 21.
The encouraged standard by licensed gynecologists is to get a pap smear as soon as you turn 21. Why is this so important? Dr. Gottfried explains, “You want to make sure you don’t have something sexually transmitted, including Human Papilloma Virus. The vaccine only protects you from some of the strains, not all.”
If you’ve never had a pap smear before, no worries! It isn’t as scary as everyone makes it out to be and it will only help you in the long run. As Dr. Gottfried emphasizes, “A pap should never be painful! Tell the examiner to stop if it is painful and start looking for another clinician immediately!”