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Exactly You Should Expect From a Gynecology Appointment

With a hectic college schedule filled with classes, club meetings, a part-time job and parties, are you taking the time to care for your health? Eating right, exercising regularly and even getting a physical once a year is not enough to ensure that you (and your lady bits) are in tiptop shape. Sexual health is so important and it’s too often neglected! Even though health professionals recommend that every woman see a gynecologist by age 18, or even earlier if you are sexually active, many young women avoid making an appointment due to the fear and negative misinformation surrounding gynecology.

Every woman has heard horror stories about visiting a gynecologist: The exam was painful, the metal instruments were uncomfortably cold, being naked in front of the doctor was embarrassing, answering questions about your sexual history was awkward… the list goes on. Some women even fear losing control of bodily functions, like becoming aroused or accidentally farting, in the middle of an exam. Before my first gynecology visit I had every single one of these worries, but guess what? I left the doctor’s office feeling both relieved and confused about all the negativity towards gynecology.

There are several steps you can take to control your experience and make yourself more at ease during your visit. Ask a friend or family member to recommend a doctor or even come to the appointment with you. My mom’s gynecologist came highly recommended, but I felt uncomfortable seeing a male doctor. Instead, I decided to see a female nurse practitioner, and my mom kept me company in the waiting room. If you do happen to see a male gynecologist and start to feel awkward, you can ask to have a female nurse come in the room at any point during the exam. Please let the gynecologist know if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe during any point of the exam and they will stop to address your concerns.

Though I can’t speak for every woman’s gynecology experience, my exam went smoothly mainly due to the friendliness and professionalism of the gynecologist. Her warm, conversational tone did not lead me to feel embarrassed or judged when asking about my periods and sexual habits. The gynecologist will ordinarily describe the length and steps of the procedure before they start the exam, but feel free to ask them what to expect if they don’t automatically.

The most common procedures performed during a pelvic exam are the Bimanual Exam and the Pap smear. The Bimanual Exam involves the doctor placing a gloved and lubricated finger into the vagina and pressing down on the abdomen to feel for abnormalities of the uterus. As for the Pap smear, the awful freezing cold speculum (that “scary metal thing” used to spread the walls of your vagina apart) is a thing of the past. Gynecologists today either use a plastic speculum or heat the metal up to close to body temperature. After the speculum is inserted, cells will be gently scraped from the cervix to test for infection. All in all, though it’s awkward to have a stranger looking at your bare nether regions, the entirety of the pelvic exam should only take a couple minutes, and the gynecologist will talk to you throughout the procedure to make sure you feel relaxed and safe. In addition to these exams, some doctors may want to perform a breast or rectal exam depending on the nature of your visit.

Remember: All doctors, gynecologists included, practice doctor-patient confidentiality. If you have narrow-minded or noisy parents, your doctor CANNOT discuss the nature or result of your visit without your consent. Don’t be discouraged from taking charge of your sexual health because of another’s judgment or your own fears. Stay happy and healthy, ladies of Cal Poly!

The Cal Poly Health Services offers some sexual health services for free! 

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Sam Snow

Cal Poly

Sam Snow is a biomedical engineering 4th-year who enjoys movies, music, dancing, and making people laugh. She's passionate health, especially mental health, and her friends and family. 
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