Gynecology is the branch of medicine specializing in women’s healthcare. A gynecologist is a doctor with special skills, training and education in women’s healthcare, who provides care to women from adolescence through the childbearing years to menopause and beyond. In addition, a gynecologist offers preventative healthcare, such as exams and routine tests that look for problems before you are sick.
Your first visit to the gynecologist
Health is a very complicated topic. It not only includes all the organs of your body, but your emotions, relationships with others, and your life-style or the choices you make.
It is so complicated, in fact, that we cannot tell you everything there is to know. We can however, provide some basic information about your health.
A young woman’s first gynecological (GYN) exam is a new experience. A woman should have a pelvic exam every year beginning when she starts having sexual intercourse, or when she turns 18, whichever comes first. Pelvic exams are important to protect your health, and they provide an opportunity to talk about your reproductive health.
Parents and their daughters may have some questions about their first visit:
How old should my daughter be?
Women should have a routine GYN exam if they are over 18. However, women and girls of any age need to visit their clinician if they notice irregularities in their breasts, genitalia, or menstrual cycles, if they are sexually active, or if they’re pregnant.
How should we prepare for the exam?
Ask your daughter whether she’d prefer a male or female clinician. If the clinician is male, he may have a female assistant in the room during the exam. If he doesn’t, your daughter can request this. Also, ask her whether she would like you to be in the room during the examination, or to meet with her and the clinician for the post-examination discussion. Encourage your daughter to be open and honest with her clinician, and to be sure to ask any questions she may have. Remember, this is a medical professional.
What does the GYN exam include?
The patient talks about personal and family medical history, and her sexual activity.
The clinician may take a urine sample and the patient’s blood pressure.
The clinician conducts a breast exam to check for lumps, thickening, irregularities, and discharge. It’s important to do routine breast self-exams between visits. If your daughter does not know how to do this, she should ask the clinician.
The clinician conducts a pelvic exam, which can detect abnormalities in the reproductive organs. The patient will feel some pressure, but it shouldn’t be painful. Tell you daughter that she should let her clinician know if she experiences any pain or burning during the exam. The patient lies on the table and places her legs in stirrups or knee rests. To examine the cervix, the clinician gently inserts a sterile metal or plastic speculum into the vagina. The clinician then swabs the cervix for a Pap test, which shows whether any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells are present. After removing the speculum, the clinician inserts one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina and presses down on the lower abdomen with the other hand to examine the internal organs.
The clinician conducts a rectal exam, by inserting a finger into the rectum, to check for any possible tumors behind the uterus or in the rectum.
If the patient is or is considering becoming sexually active, she and her clinician may wish to discuss contraceptive birth control options.
Most important, Relax! Ask the provider to explain what he or she is doing if you feel uncomfortable or concerned.
If a question or problem is urgent or a emergency, a physician on call will be able to help you 24 hours a day by calling 508-730-1666. Rhode Island patients can reach us by calling 888-543-4121.
Extreme emergency – Dial 911
If your concern is not an emergency, remember to write it down and bring it to your next office visit. We look forward to helping you to have a safe pregnancy and a healthy, beautiful baby.