What to Expect at Your First Gynaecologist Appointment
Gynaecological exams are an important part of maintaining a healthy body as a woman. However, if you’ve never been to the gynaecologist before it’s understandable to feel anxious, especially when you don’t know what to expect. There’s really nothing to be afraid of, but to put you at ease, we will share the ins and outs of a typical gynaecological appointment and exam.
When should you go to a gynaecologist?
This is a common question when trying to determine whether you should go to a gynaecologist. Unfortunately, some women think a visit to the gynae is reserved for health issues or pregnancy, but a gynaecologist can usually detect, treat, and prevent serious issues, so it’s best to go regularly. Still not sure if you need to make an appointment? Here’s a list to help you decide:
When you become sexually active
When a woman becomes sexually active, there is a greater risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted illnesses). Gynaes are able to test for many diseases, such as herpes and HPV (human papillomavirus).
If you suspect anything is wrong
A woman or girl, whether sexually active or not, of any age should see a gynae if there’s any suspicion of something being wrong. An abnormal menstrual cycle is a common reason for getting a consultation. You don’t have to be sexually active – if something concerns you, visiting a gynaecologist is generally necessary.
If you are over the age of 21
Before the age of 21, girls can be adequately assessed by a paediatrician – for younger girls – or general practitioners for any health concerns. If there is a need for a gynaecologist’s intervention, your practitioner can refer you to one.
You’ve not had your annual appointment
Once you start seeing a gynae, it’s advisable to make annual appointments to make sure everything is in working order. Of course, this depends on your gynaecologist’s recommendation as your medical needs might differ from another individual’s.
What you can expect at the appointment?
Much like any medical practice, you will need to fill out a form or make your gynae aware of your medical history. Once done, you may be asked to step into a separate room or behind a curtain or screen where you will need to undress and put on a gown. There’s no need to feel uncomfortable – although it’s understandable at your first appointment – gynaecological consultations require you to be undressed in order to perform all the necessary examinations. However, you won’t be asked to remove your gown.
Your gynae will or can perform the following medical checks
- A general check-up (this is very similar to a check-up that is performed by a general practitioner (GP): blood pressure, a heart and chest exam, a urine test, body weight, feeling the glands, etc.)
- In the first three months of pregnancy the gynaecologists will perform vaginal ultrasounds to accurately visualize the uterus and ovaries and measure the fetus. Thereafter an abdominal ultrasound will be used in 2nd and 3rd trimester.
- A pelvic exam which includes a check of the outside of the genital area, as well as the inside using a tool called a speculum. A speculum helps to open up the vagina in order to see the cervix.
- An HIV/STI screening.
- A breast exam to feel for any lumps or “dimpling” which is often a symptom of breast cancer.
- And, finally, the infamous pap smear. A pap smear is a test of the cells on the outside of the cervix to investigate any abnormalities, such as those indicative of HPV or cervical cancer.
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