A well-woman examination is one of the most important doctor’s appointments that can be made. During this time a doctor can ensure you’re in full health and detect any hidden issues that can arise in your reproductive system. It’s completely normal to feel nervous about an exam in this area, but learning how to prepare both physically and mentally can help to reduce the anxiety levels. You also should educate yourself on what exactly occurs during the exam to put yourself at ease.
The goal of a well woman examination is to prevent and detect illnesses that are specific to women. These annual appointments also detect cancers early-on in both the breasts and cervix; early detection means a higher chance for a cure. They can also detect any sexually-transmitted diseases, infections and the like that can be treated before the symptoms become severe. As a result, these appointments also attempt to prevent sterility, while promoting a healthy reproduction system for any future pregnancies.
What to Expect
A physician’s assistant or nurse will perform a routine checkup that measures your weight, height, and checks your blood pressures. They’ll ask you very personal questions about your health and lifestyle, as well. These questions can include pregnancy history, age, when you first began to have your menstrual cycle, your last cycle, abortions, miscarriages and any surgeries. They may also ask about your history with birth control and pertinent family health history. You may also be vaccinated during this time, if necessary or requested. Those who are sexually active or experiencing problems will have a more thorough exam. You’ll be given a cloth gown to wear, and be asked to sit on the exam table. The doctor will perform routine physical examination techniques on your lungs, thyroids, and other routine areas. You’ll be asked to lay down for a breast examination and abdominal check.
The doctor will cover your lower half with a sheet as they ask you to place your feet in the stirrups, and will then check the exterior of your genitals to ensure they are the right color, while checking for sores, discharge or lesions. If you’re visiting due to a concern with a specific issue, request a mirror to show the doctor the problem area. The professional will then insert s device called a speculum into the vagina to reveal your cervix. Women who are over the age of 21 require this test to ensure the health of their cervix; a pap test uses a small brush along the surface of the cervix to collect a sample to be tested for issues in the lab. This may be incredibly uncomfortable, and cause some spotting after the exam.
Lastly, your doctor will manually perform a physical exam with lubricated, gloved fingers to touch your ovaries and feel for other abnormalities in this region. They’ll press on your abdomen at the same time. Once again, it will feel slightly uncomfortable, but only lasts for a few minutes.
When to Visit
Women should first begin to see a doctor for a gynecological examination when they first begin to have sex or if they have issues with their menstrual cycle. However, those who have reached the age of 21 and have yet to visit a doctor for this type of visit should schedule an appointment. Don’t schedule a well woman appointment during your regular menstrual cycle, unless you are actively bleeding outside of your normal cycle. These appointments should be performed regularly, most commonly on a yearly basis.