As women age, the need for women’s health services increases. Many doctors recommend a girl have her first gynecological exam at 13-15 years old, and all agree that it should be done when a young woman turns 18 years old. After the initial visit, a woman should visit the gynecologist annually, as well as anytime she feels necessary due to pain or other symptoms of the reproductive system.
What A Women’s Health Center Does
Women’s health centers provide gynecological exams, but they also do much more. From helping women find unplanned pregnancy resources to diagnosing and treating STIs, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other disorders of the reproductive system, these centers offer a one-stop location for most things a woman needs for her sexual and reproductive health. Many women visit health centers for contraception, sexual dysfunction, and even emergency care.
What To Expect During Your Appointment
What happens during your appointment depends on why you want to be seen, but a first visit typically covers several areas. First, you’ll chat with your doctor about your general health information, whether you’re sexually active, and more. It is always important to tell the truth about your health and sexual activity, as omitting information can lead to misdiagnosis.
After chatting, your gynecologist will perform an exam known as a pap smear. You’ll put your feet into stirrups that help the gynecologist to see while performing the exam. The exam may feel cold and slightly uncomfortable, but there isn’t usually pain. Keep in mind that body hair and odor is natural and may help your doctor to determine if there are any issues. Depending on your age, your doctor may finish up with a breast exam.
After your exam, your gynecologist will tell you if there is anything of note during your exam, answer any questions you have, and potentially schedule a follow-up appointment.
How To Prepare for Your First Appointment
There are several things you can do for your first appointment. First, if possible, collect your family’s health history and be prepared to provide it to your doctor. This may include any history of cancer, diabetes, heart problems, mental health issues, and more.
Avoid sexual activity, using vaginal douches, or using tampons for a couple of days before your appointment. These activities can alter the results of any exams or testing done. If you have a period when you’re scheduled for your appointment, you can choose to postpone it, unless you have urgent symptoms.
It also helps to create a list of questions you want to ask your gynecologist. Common ones include options for birth control, preparing to try to conceive, mental health issues, whether you need any important vaccines, and how to better protect your sexual and reproductive health.
Whether you’re 18 or 48, it’s never too late to start protecting your sexual and reproductive health. Your local women’s clinic can walk you through the process. Search for a women’s health center with board-certified gynecologists and a positive reputation among the women in your community to get started.