Preparing for an OB-GYN appointment can bring up feelings of anxiety for many, whether it’s your first visit, annual check-up or if you’re getting help with a medical issue. Starting at age 13, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises young women to have their first gynecologic visit and a well-woman check annually until age 65.
Knowing how to prepare for your gyno appointment at any age helps make the experience more comfortable and less invasive. Enacting practical tips and insights to help you prepare for your gyno appointment can help you streamline your visit and take care of your reproductive health.
Understand What to Expect
Understanding what to expect during your gynecologist appointment can ease gynecologist anxiety if you feel nervous or scared. Familiarize yourself with common procedures like pelvic exams, Pap smears, or breast exams.
Call the clinic beforehand to ask about the appointment duration, the tests performed, and who will be present during the exam. You can also ask about the use of special equipment during your pelvic exam, such as soft, disposable speculums, that can make the procedure more comfortable.
Being informed can demystify the experience, ensuring you walk into your appointment feeling prepared and more at ease.
Wear Comfortable Clothing
Put on your favorite yoga or sweatpants and a hoodie to help you feel relaxed and at ease. Many women feel cold in the exam room, especially when walking on the cold tile flooring or sitting on the table in stirrups.
The Nella Comfort Kit contains one of our comfortable speculums and a pair of fuzzy socks. This can help you stay warm and cozy during your exam, making it a less invasive experience.
Avoid Urinating Just Before Your Appointment
If your doctor needs a urine sample, avoid going to the bathroom just before your appointment.
Urine samples may be needed to test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), urinary tract infections (UTIs) or possible pregnancies. Providing this sample is vital to accurately testing for these conditions and receiving treatment if needed.
Write Down Your Medical History
Writing down your medical history before your gynecologist appointment is crucial for accurate assessment. Include the first day of your last period and any abnormalities regarding your menstrual cycle, such as irregular periods. Bring your medical records and list any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking and known allergies.
Mention past surgeries or medical conditions, especially related to reproductive health. If you are sexually active, note whether you use birth control and what type. Your medical history gives your provider a clearer picture of your current reproductive health status, ensuring a thorough evaluation.
Request a Female Doctor if that Makes You More Comfortable
Requesting a female doctor for your gynecological exam is a personal preference and entirely your choice. Some individuals feel more comfortable discussing reproductive and sexual health concerns with a female practitioner. A 2020 study found that 66% of women surveyed preferred a female OB-GYN, while only 8% preferred a male provider.
If you feel more at ease with a female provider, make the request when scheduling your appointment. Having a doctor who meets your preferences can help you create an open, comfortable dialogue during your exam, ultimately benefiting your overall healthcare journey.
Don’t Schedule an Appointment During Your Period
Avoid booking your appointment during your period unless you have specific concerns about your menstrual cycle. Being on your period can make some tests, like Pap smears, a bit tricky, and the results might not be as clear. Plus, your reproductive organs might feel more sensitive and uncomfortable during that time of the month.
Instead, choose a date when your period is least likely to make a surprise appearance. This way, your appointment can be smoother and the results more accurate. However, if period problems are something you need to chat about, scheduling during your cycle might give your doctor a better insight into what’s going on.
Don’t Have Sex the Night Before
Refraining from sexual activity the night before your gynecological exam ensures a more accurate reproductive health assessment. Sexual activity can temporarily alter the vaginal environment, potentially affecting the results of tests like Pap smears or swab tests.
It may also cause minor irritations, which could be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. Abstaining allows your doctor to examine your natural state, leading to precise evaluations and recommendations.
Reconsider Pelvic Grooming
Reconsidering pelvic grooming before a gynecologist appointment is advisable for a more comfortable and accurate examination. Over-grooming can cause irritation, small cuts or other minor injuries, possibly leading to discomfort during your exam.
It could mask or create symptoms that might mislead your healthcare provider, such as irritation, redness or inflammation. Remember that gynecologists are professionals who assess your health, not judge grooming habits.
Keeping things natural or avoiding aggressive grooming right before your visit will contribute to a smoother and more beneficial healthcare experience.
Bring a Friend or Family Member
Bringing a friend or family member along to your gynecologist appointment can be comforting, especially if you feel anxious or it's your first visit. A familiar presence can provide emotional support, making the experience less intimidating.
They can accompany you in the waiting room and as you prepare for your height, weight and blood pressure to be taken before the pelvic exam. Your friend can share a conversation and help distract you from any nervousness you may feel.
Having someone to discuss the appointment with afterward can also feel reassuring. Your comfort and ease during medical visits are essential, and a supportive friend can contribute to achieving a positive healthcare experience.
Come Prepared with a List of Questions
Preparing a list of questions beforehand ensures that all your concerns are addressed and you don’t leave the clinic with lingering uncertainties. Whether it’s about period irregularities, birth control options or general reproductive health, jotting them down helps in having a constructive conversation with your healthcare provider.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question when it comes to your health. Your gynecologist is there to provide you with the information and reassurance you need. Having your concerns listed maximizes the benefit you get from the appointment.
Choose the Right Speculum
When it comes to a gynecologist appointment, the speculum is one of those tools that might make you feel a bit uneasy. A speculum is essential for a thorough examination. It helps your provider view your cervix and vagina and aids in the Pap smear procedure to screen for cervical cancer or HPV.
Many providers still use hard plastic or cold metal speculums; however, you can speak with your gynecologist about new options like Nella. Nella is a disposable speculum with light that allows for better visibility and more accurate examination. It’s also made of soft, temperature-neutral material, is as slim as a tampon and doesn’t make intimidating metallic noises when inserted.
Bring up Nella with your provider if you’ve had discomfort in previous exams. You can easily refer them to Nella, order your own speculum or have one delivered straight to their office for your appointment. Your well-being is the top priority, and finding the right tools is key to a positive and beneficial gynecological experience.
Navigating Your Gyno Appointment with Confidence
Navigating a gyno appointment can initially seem daunting, but you can minimize discomfort with the right preparation and open communication. From choosing the right speculum for your comfort to addressing any anxieties and being mindful of your pre-appointment actions, every step contributes to a more pleasant and productive experience to safeguard the health of your vagina, uterus and ovaries.