Reproductive Health Series Part 7
By Hamdy Inusah
One of the best steps that you can take for maintaining your sexual and reproductive health is to begin making regular visits to the gynecologist. Continue reading and to learn about navigating the reproductive health system, and the process for standard pelvic exam and/or pap smear.
When Should You First Visit a Gynecologist? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you should have your first gynecologist visit when you’re between the ages of 13 and 17.
After this first visit, it is recommended to schedule an appointment for a yearly check-up.
Why Should You Visit a Gynecologist? The three main reasons to start going to the gynecologist are:
To receive information on your reproductive and sexual health. It is important to learn about your body, regardless of if you are sexually active or not.
To learn about prevention measures for any reproductive health issues or sexually transmitted infections as well as cervical cancer.
To receive treatment for issues like irregular menstrual cycles, vaginal pain or discomfort or other reproductive health issues.
Going to the Gynecologist for the First Time When you arrive at the gynecologist, you will likely go through one or all of these short exams.
The External Exam: Your health care provider will first look at the area outside of your vagina (clitoris, labia, vaginal opening). They will check for cysts, abnormal discharge, genital warts, irritation, or other issues
The Bimanual Exam: Your provider will use gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina while gently pressing on your lower abdomen with their other hand. This is a way to check your uterus and ovaries.
One of the most important parts of going to the gynecologist is having a pap smear exam. This exam helps to screen for cancer as it can detect precancerous cells on your cervix
What happens during a Pap Smear exam?
When to get a Pap Smear?
You should start getting Pap tests at age 21. If your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
If your test shows that something might not be normal, your doctor will contact you and figure out how best to follow up. There are many reasons why test results might not be normal. It usually does not mean you have cancer.
What else can you learn about during your visit to the gynecologist?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
Vaginal Discharge, Vaginal itching, redness, or soreness
Questions about bacterial or yeast infections
Continue Reading our Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Series Part 1: Understanding Internal Female Reproductive Anatomy Part 2: Symptoms and Causes of Four Common Reproductive Health Issues Part 3: Four Things to Know About the Cervix Part 4: Cervical Cancer Part 5: Understanding HPV, the HPV Vaccine, and Common HPV Myths Part 6: Navigating Conversations about Reproductive Health Part 7: Going to the Gynecologist Subscribe to our blog to follow along with future posts!