It’s Just Something Ya Gotta Do
Okay. You may not look forward to your first gynecology appointment with joy, but in a way, you could look at it as a kind of adventure. Think of it as a rite of passage in growing up and becoming the independent, in-control and wise woman you plan to be.
The key to being confident about any experience is to know what to expect. The good news is there’s lots of good information about ob-gyn care on the web to help you–starting right here with these Qs and As.
Q. When should I schedule my first appointment and how often should I follow up afterward?
A. Anywhere between age 13 and 18, depending on whether you have any health concerns — like cramps, emotional ups and downs, irregular periods or a family medical history that makes it a good idea to go sooner rather than later. You and your doctor can work out a schedule for follow-up visits that work for you. If you’re sexually active or over 18 you should make an appointment every year (we’re not kidding – this is really important!).
Q. How do I choose an ob-gyn doctor?
A. It’s a good idea to find a doctor who sees lots of teens. Your issues and concerns are different than your mom’s. That doesn’t mean your mom’s ob-gyn couldn’t also be the best doctor for you, though. Many ob-gyn doctors have a sub-specialty in adolescent gynecology. Ask people you trust for references – your family doctor, your mom, aunt, older sister, your school or college nurse and best friends – so you can put together a short list. Then check with your insurance company to make sure the doctors on your list are covered under your plan.
Q. What if I choose a doctor and then don’t like him or her when we meet.
A. You need to feel comfortable with your doctor. And you should choose someone you’ll want to stay with for the long term. So, if the chemistry just isn’t right, go back to the drawing board (your short list), and try again. It’s an investment of your time that will pay off in the future.
Q. What will happen during my first visit?
A. It may just be an opportunity for you and your doctor to get to know each other and for your doctor to find out about your health history. Your height, weight and blood pressure will be checked and you may be asked to provide a urine sample. Depending on your age, health history and any concerns you may have, your ob-gyn might do a breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test.
Q. How do I talk to my ob-gyn doctor?
A. Asking and answering questions, no matter how personal, is the key to getting good care. Think about how many women your doctor has seen. It’s a pretty good bet that they’ve heard it all. Just remember–it’s really important to be honest. That’s the only way your doctor will know what to check and whether you might need special tests. What you say is confidential, just between you and your doctor. Your doctor will be happy to describe procedures, so don’t hold back. Ask whatever is on your mind. Your doctor will probably tell you that there are no stupid questions.
Q. Will the exams hurt?
A. You’ll probably experience a feeling of slight pressure rather than pain during the exams. Some discomfort might be caused by muscle tension, so it’s good to concentrate on relaxing. If you do feel pain, speak up right away.
Q. What happens when my appointment is over?
A. If you’ve had tests, your doctor will let you know when the results will be back. It’s a good idea to schedule your next appointment (some women schedule to coincide with their birthdays so it’s easy to remember). If you want more information about anything you discussed with your doctor, ask for references. Then, congratulations – you can skip on out of the doctor’s office knowing you’ve done something good for yourself.