As a young girl, you may have had yearly checkups with a doctor called a pediatrician. This type of doctor specializes in examining and working with children to make sure that they are healthy. However, as you become older and you become a woman, you will need to start seeing a new doctor, called an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, known as an Ob-Gyn. This type of doctor also gives you check-ups but also specializes in the health of your reproductive system. It is very important to see your Ob-Gyn once a year, where they will perform normal check-up tests, as well as specialized tests such as pelvic exams and pap tests. This page goes over what you can expect at your doctor’s office the first time you go to your Ob-Gyn.
WHEN SHOULD I START SEEING AN OB-GYN?
You should start seeing your Ob-Gyn around the ages of 16-18. However, if you become sexually active, you should schedule an appointment soon after so your Ob-Gyn can make sure that you are healthy and do not have any sexually transmitted diseases. You should also see your Ob-Gyn if you think that you are pregnant. Other problems, such as early or painful menses and irregular menstrual cycles should also be addressed by an Ob-Gyn.
WHAT HAPPENS AT AN OB-GYN VISIT?
On your first visit to your new Ob-Gyn, you may be a little nervous or uncomfortable about what is to happen. This is why your doctor will oftentimes spend a long time getting to know you so that you start to feel more comfortable. During this time, he or she will ask you certain questions about your health, medical history, sexual activity, menstrual cycle, diet, and exercise. After you have talked to your doctor, he or she may perform several exams on you. Which exams you may get depends on your age or if you are feeling sick. Some of these exams include a pelvic exam, breast exam, blood tests, cultures, or a pap test. After these tests, it is a good time to ask your doctor about any questions you may have. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask-all information is kept confidential, and your doctor can’t tell anyone what you say or ask.
WHAT EXAMS WILL THEY PERFORM?
There are several different exams that your doctor may perform. These include:
- A Breast Exam: During a breast exam, you will lie down on an exam table. Your doctor will then open your gown and feel your breasts in a certain pattern, as well as looking at them for any abnormalities. Usually, this is a very easy, gentle procedure, and it does not hurt unless your breasts are tender from your period. Breast exams are very important because they help your doctor check for any lumps or other signs that there may be something wrong with your breasts. It is also helpful to ask your doctor about how to perform self-breast exams that you can do at home.
- A Pelvic Exam: A pelvic exam is performed in order for your doctor to get a good look at your reproductive organs and to make sure everything is okay. You will be asked to lie on the exam table with your feet in the footrests. There are three parts to every pelvic exam:
- Looking at the outside of the vagina and examining the vulva
- Inserting a speculum (a medical device)that will spread your vaginal walls
- Exam with gloved hands inside to feel your internal pelvic organs
- A Pap Test: A pap test is a special test that allows your doctor to check the cells of your cervix ensuring they are healthy and intact. It is performed in the same position as a pelvic exam, and the two are often done together. During a pap test, your doctor will insert a small scraper or brush through the vagina and onto the cervix. This brush gently removes cervical cells. The specimen is sent to a laboratory for valuation, looking for abnormalities. Your first pap test should be at age 21.
WILL I NEED ANY SHOTS?
While you are at your Ob-Gyn appointment, your doctor will discuss your immunization history with you. He or she may suggest certain shots that you haven’t yet had that may be necessary for school, or just good ideas to keep you healthy. Although shots can be slightly painful and nerve-wracking, it is very important to get them. Preventing an illness now leads to a healthier, more carefree life for you. At your Ob-Gyn, your doctor will discuss vaccinations such as meningitis, hepatitis B, and HPV.
WHAT MEDICAL SYMPTOMS AND PROBLEMS WOULD MERIT A VISIT TO MY OB-GYN?
There are several different problems that can cause you to need to visit your doctor. These problems include:
- Bad, painful cramps during your period
- Very long periods where lots of blood is lost
- Pain around the vagina
- Swelling, burning, itching, or discharge from the vagina
- Severe abdominal pain
- Missing a period
- Signs that you may have an STD
If you have any of these problems, you should schedule an appointment with your Ob-Gyn as soon as you can.
WHAT OTHER THINGS CAN I TALK TO MY OB-GYN ABOUT?
There are many questions and concerns you may have that can be discussed with your Ob-Gyn. Some common concerns include:
- Menstrual problems
- Birth control
- Weight problems
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Emotional changes
- Sexuality or sexual problems
All these questions can be easily discussed with your doctor and will remain confidential.
WHAT IS CONFIDENTIALITY?
Confidentiality is an agreement that your doctor makes with you that under law, he or she is not able to repeat anything that you have said or any parts of your exam to anyone, not even your parents. Confidentiality means that no one can legally talk at all about anything that happens in the doctor’s office but you. Many girls fear that their parents will know what they have asked or told their doctors in confidence, but the truth is, no matter how angry or upset parents become or how many times they ask, they are not allowed to know anything that goes on between you and your doctor. If your parents are upset about confidentiality or want to know what is going on, have your doctor talk to them to explain that whatever happens is kept secret by law.
HOW CAN I STAY HEALTHY BETWEEN APPOINTMENTS?
There are many good ways to stay healthy between appointments with your gynecologist. Eating healthily and exercising for thirty minutes at least three times a week are the best ways to stay healthy. Exercise and good eating habits help you maintain a healthy weight, which prevents many medical and emotional issues. It is also very important to always drive safely- always buckle your seatbelt, look where you’re going, and never text while driving. It is always very important to stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs; these problems can all become addictive and very dangerous to your health. If you feel sad or depressed for prolonged periods of time, it is important and beneficial for you to seek help. If you believe you might be pregnant, seek early prenatal care. Using appropriate birth control every time you have sex, including the use of a latex condom can help prevent against both pregnancy and STDs.
Your first Ob-Gyn appointment may make you nervous, but being informed and knowing what to expect will help you relax and take charge. Develop a good rapport with your doctor to allow you to candidly talk to him or her about your lifestyle and any problems you may be experiencing. As always, it is important that you ask any questions important to you.