An annual visit to the gynecologist is reserved for moms and “older ladies” right? Wrong. Women should have their first visit to a gynecologist between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. Teach your daughters early on why women’s health is important and how they can take care of themselves. As for you, regardless of your age, it’s never too late! Learn why annual exams are important, how to choose a doctor, and what to expect.
Why Is It Important?
You may be wondering why an annual exam is even necessary, especially if you are young, healthy, and not planning to have babies any time soon. An OB/GYN is a doctor who practices in obstetrics (delivery of babies) and gynecology (health of reproductive organs) and is uniquely qualified to address several areas related to women’s health. A variety of concerns are addressed in an annual exam that concern women of all ages. Two important ones are preventive care and primary care. Routine tests, discussions of lifestyle and family history, and exams can help stop problems before they start. A gynecologist is often the only regular physician women see in the early part of their lives, so this is where mental and physical health concerns are often discovered first.
There are other issues that women may need assistance with at a young age. Things like birth control and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing is important for young women who are sexually active. A gynecologist will be able to help determine which type of birth control is best, answer questions, and discuss safe practices all within an impartial environment. No matter your age, if you are using a prescription form of birth control, it is important to have it checked annually to review its effectiveness and make sure it isn’t causing unnecessary side effects. Vaccinations is another topic that is important to talk to an OB/GYN about because there are some specifically for women and others that are recommended for pregnant women.
Who Should I See?
Choosing an OB/GYN can seem daunting if you have never gone to one before, but there are some steps you can take to help. Several of the doctors at TWC specialize in seeing young women. They have developed great information and a special knack for putting patients at ease. You can learn more about the physicians of TWC here. It’s a good idea to check your insurance to find out what it covers and whom it covers.
What Happens at the Visit?
During the first visit, your doctor will likely ask a lot of questions about your personal medical history and your family history. She will want to know if there are any illnesses that run in the family or if there are any mental illness concerns to watch for. She will also want to know about your present health and lifestyle. A general exam will provide a lot of this information—height, weight, and blood pressure. The rest of the general information will be provided by you, including typical menstrual cycle, sexual activity, diet, and exercise.
During an annual visit, your OB/GYN will perform a pelvic exam by checking the vulva, vagina, cervix, and internal organs. A pap test is a routine part of an annual exam and is done about every three years (unless you have an abnormal one, in which case, it is done more often). A pap involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix with a small brush to test for abnormalities. A pelvic exam is not necessary until age 21 as long as there are no presenting problems like abnormal bleeding or pain.
If you are under age 21, only an external exam is necessary. Your doctor will do a quick visual check of the vulva. She may also ask if you have questions about your body and where things are located. If you are sexually active, your doctor may recommend STD testing, which can generally be done by a urine test. You can watch a video of our own Dr. Nicols explain the importance of a first exam. If it’s time for your annual, whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth, The Woman’s Clinic is a great choice! Our knowledgeable and experienced OB/GYNs are ready to meet with you, answer your questions, and help you with your unique health concerns. Schedule an appointment with us today!