A young woman's first visit to the gynecologist can easily be described as one of the final rites of passage into female adulthood. Unfortunately, like most major physical events in a woman's life (here's looking at you first period and giving birth), this right of passage can be daunting, uncomfortable, and riddled with misconceptions. But if you're having sex and/or are over the age of 18, you have to book yourself an appointment with a gynecologist because, well, your health is more important than your nerves.
Since we Americans still have a hard time talking openly about vaginas, young women bound for their first gynecologist appointment often seek refuge in the archives of the Internet in order to calm their nerves.
What will the gyno do to me? Will it hurt? What will they ask me? Should I lie? Should I really ask that question? The concerns are endless and message boards are overflowing with young women receiving answers that are far from accurate and comforting.
So in honor of National Women's Health Week, what you can really expect from your first gyno appointment — from one grown woman, to another.
booking THE APPOINTMENT
So you need to find a doctor. Asking your friends who they see can be the easiest way to find a good doctor, though ZocDoc also makes it simple to find a doctor in your network and book online. Of course, you can also find a list of gynos on your provider's website or by calling your insurance's customer service line. If you'd prefer a female doctor or a male doctor, you should specify that.
Once you've found a doctor you want to book an appointment with, don't feel skittish about admitting to the office receptionist that it's your first visit to the gynecologist. If your periods are predictable, try to book an appointment when you don't expect you'll be menstruating.
Once you arrive for your appointment, expect to leave plenty of time to fill out paperwork about your personal health. Do not lie, exaggerate, or conveniently omit certain information. If your period has been particularly heavy, mention it. If you smell a little funky down there, mention it. If sex hurts, definitely mention it. Absolutely anything you want to tell them, mention it now.
It's crucial to be as truthful as possible about anything and everything you tell your gynecologist. She can't properly treat you if you lie or conveniently leave out the "embarrassing" details.
After the paperwork is finished, you will be asked to give a urine sample and someone will take your height, weight, and blood pressure. Easy, you got this.
Next, it's time for a little chat with your gynecologist. Since it's the first time you're meeting each other, this is the time for you to air your concerns and articulate anything you think can be better explained in person. Your gynecologist will go through the paperwork you filled out earlier, and perhaps ask additional questions based off of what you wrote.
Try to think of this part of the appointment as if you're getting coffee with your best girlfriend. You should feel free to get chummy with your gynecologist, and to share anything about your health and sex life. If you're still feeling nervous, feel free to mention again that this is your first visit to a gynecologist. A good doctor will do everything in her power to make you feel at ease. And if she doesn't, remember, sometimes you gotta shop around to find the one.
Overall, remember that this person is a doctor, and should want what's best for you and your health. She is not there to judge you, hurt you, or make you feel uncomfortable in any way. If you feel at any time like your doctor is mistreating or judging you, you have every right to get up and leave at any time.
The Breast Exam
Now it's time to get up close and personal. Basically, your doctor will examine each breast, feeling for any suspicious bumps. They may also show you how to examine yourself monthly in between appointments. Try to pay attention, even if it's kind of weird to have someone you don't know feeling your boobs. It's important!
Next, your doctor will ask you to get into the exam chair and put your feet into the stirrups so that she can take a look around. She will put a clamp inside your vagina called a speculum that will open it up and allow her to have an easier look inside. When I first saw the clamp, I nearly had a heart attack, but as it turns out, it was no biggie. It felt a bit odd and awkward, but it didn't (and should not) hurt to have it inserted. Your doctor will then check your uterus by placing two fingers inside of your vagina and their other hand on top of your stomach. At this point, I like to stare at the ceiling and think about what I'll have for lunch.
THE PAP SMEAR
The pap smear. Dun dun dunnnnn. Well, I'm not going to lie to you — this may hurt, but only in that way something that something that mostly just feels weird hurts. A pap smear is meant to check for abnormal cells that may be cancerous, and most women start having pap smears in their early 20s.
Your doctor will scrape (I know, uncomfortable word) part of your cervix and use the sample for testing. This is the most uncomfortable part of the exam because it mostly just feels strange. Luckily for everyone involved, it should only take well-under a minute. Just breathe, and if you're anything like me, stare into Kris Jenner's face on the cover of the magazine on the shelf next to you.
Free sample time!
Congrats, you're done! Feel free to ask your doc any last questions, as well as for any free samples she thinks you might be able to use (she's got everything from pill packs to prescription face soap). You can hop out of that chair, throw your fabulous outfit back on, and walk out that door with your head held high because you just braved your first trip to the gyno. You are woman, hear you roar.
Treat yourself to some ice cream, because lollypops are for children. And you? Well, you know who you are.