How to Feel More Comfortable at the Gyno If You Get Stressed Before Every Appointment

If you’re a person who needs to visit a gynecologist, you know the feeling of trepidation before you book an appointment. While it’s recommended that you start visiting a women’s health doctor if and when you get a period, that rule-of-thumb is typically ignored in favor of waiting until you're sexually active. But, gynecology visits are incredibly important to your overall health even if you’re not sexually active ­– if only they didn’t have such a bad reputation.

I’ll be honest that my idea of a fun time doesn’t involve being on the receiving end of the speculum, being poked and prodded during a routine pelvic exam. But if your pre-exam jitters are manifesting as full-blown anxiety attacks that cause you to avoid the gyno as a whole, there’s a bigger issue going on here.

Though it’s completely normal to feel nervous going to the gynecologist, skipping your recommended yearly appointment and just hoping that nothing is wrong only causes further detriment to your health. Not only is your gyno checking for STIs and abnormalities, they’re also there to be a resource for any questions you may have about your sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, the gynecologist can provide you with birth control options, fertility information, and breast exams if you need them. 

Crushing anxiety over a doctor’s appointment can be debilitating, but with a few new tips up your sleeve, you’ll be able to book your next appointment with ease!

  1. 1. Determine what’s scaring you

    There are multiple different aspects of visiting the gynecologist that can trigger your nerves. Not only is your doctor examining a super intimate part of your body, but the unfamiliar feeling of having a metal tool examining some of your most sensitive body parts can send anyone running. However, if your agitation is overpowering, try to assess what truly makes you feel so worried before your visit to the gyno.

    If you’re feeling self-conscious about the way your body looks, smells, or how you maintain your personal upkeep, don’t even think about that —your doctor has seen it all! How you take care of your downstairs (whether you shave, trim, or keep it au naturel) is completely up to you and your personal preferences. As long as you’re keeping healthy (i.e. not using douches or other products that can severely mess up your natural pH), your doctor is not going to care what you look like.

    If the source of your nervousness is the fear you associate with the examination itself, there are several ways to combat your pre-examination tension. Pelvic exams and pap smears are never enjoyable, but if the discomfort has you squirming in pain or canceling appointments, you need a fast-acting solution.

    If you have a vagina, it’s common for the muscles to tense up prior to an exam—especially if you’re anxious. This tension can make the examination very difficult, but it also isn’t helpful when people insist that you just “relax.” If you could relax, you would!

    There are simple at-home exercises you can try to loosen up your vaginal muscles in preparation for an exam. Try Kegel exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor, and focus on relaxing your whole body (vaginal muscles included) before an exam. Dr. Huma Farid, an OB/GYN at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, recommends "mindful breathing techniques" and listening to some of your favorite music in the examination room to alleviate any nerves. She also stressed open communication with your doctor as well—let them know if you are uncomfortable!

    If you sense that something else is up that’s causing your anxiety or painful examinations, never hesitate to discuss that with your healthcare provider, gynecologist, or even a sex therapist.

  2. 2. Research, so that nothing comes unexpected

    When I’m completely stressed over an upcoming event, I do the most research possible to assuage my worry. You should do that too when looking for a gynecologist.  Though sometimes the other people in your life will make recommendations, you have to make the decision that is best for you. The gynecologist that works wonders for your friend may not be the one for you.

    Dr. Hope Ricciotti, the Department Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says that educating yourself is imperative to a successful gynecology visit.

    “Most doctors will have a packet of information that they can refer their patients to, or [they can refer] to national organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which have great websites,” Dr. Ricciotti says. When referring to her own tactics to dealing with anxious patients, she said that she coordinates an in-person meeting and provide them with reading so they can feel “ownership in understanding their body, their needs, and their goals with preventive health.”

    Your research should narrow down who you want to visit for your annual appointment: if you want a male or female practitioner, if you want an LGBTQ+-friendly office, their reviews and credentials, the services they provide, and whether they take your insurance (or are willing to work with you financially if your insurance doesn’t cover the exams/if you don’t have insurance). If you want an LGBTQ+ friendly OB/GYN, Dr. Farid emphasized that many hospitals train their doctors to be sensitive and that it is ultimately your doctor’s responsibility to make you feel comfortable. Doing careful research in hand-selecting your women’s health doctor will lessen the anxiety you have before going to the appointment, because you’ll be assured that they have your priorities in mind.

    You can also research the overall procedure of the visit based on your needs, so you know exactly what to expect!

  3. 3. Know you’re not in this alone

    Many people feel uneasy about going to the gynecologist, so if you’re feeling anxious prior to your visit, you are not alone. You should also always know that you are allowed to bring a family member or a friend to your appointment for support. They can stay in the waiting room or come into the room with you if you want a hand to hold or just want someone else to be with you. However, it should be noted that the gyno will be asking you some pretty intimate questions, so you might want to avoid bringing your parent into the room in case you get TMI about your sex life.

    If you don’t want to bring anyone to your appointment, but also don’t want to go through it alone, you are entitled to ask for a nurse in the room. If you get uncomfortable, there is a friendly face in the room that is there to support you.

  4. 4. Discuss your concerns with your doctor directly

    Like I mentioned before, your gyno has seen and heard everything, so no question you throw at them could possibly throw them off. Additionally, they’re most likely used to people tensing up during examinations or having anxiety prior to or during the appointment. But, if you don’t let your gyno know about your anxiety, they won’t be able to help you throughout the examination.

    Dr. Ricciotti also explained there are alternatives to maintain your sexual health if you need some more time to adjust to the idea of going to the gynecologist.

    “There are urine screenings for STI’s, and they have blood tests for HIV,” Dr. Ricciotti said. “You don’t always need a pelvic exam.”

    Your gyno can recommend solutions for you to become more comfortable with your visits, and remember that you’re more sensitive so that they are more communicative or gentler during examinations. All of these notes are useful to them so that they can do their job and help you maintain your sexual health. Don’t be afraid to tell them about your concerns – use them as a resource!

  5. 5. Ultimately, going to the gynecologist keeps you happy and healthy

    Remember that your gyno visits can only help, not hurt. Though you may have intense anxiety regarding your appointment, the negative consequences of ignoring your sexual health (such as cervical cancer and untreated STIs, according to Dr. Ricciotti) far outweigh the 20-minute yearly appointment you need to have. By visiting the gyno, you’ll be provided with resources to keep yourself clean from STIs, avoid unplanned pregnancies, and just generally keep yourself happy and healthy.  

Though it’s completely normal to be nervous when visiting the gyno, if these nerves keep you from pursuing a healthy life, you need to address them appropriately. Make sure you get all the help you need so you can keep living your life, and never be ashamed to ask for a little extra support!