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Who really likes going to see the Gynecologist? For some women, it probably ranks right up there with getting a tooth drilled at the dentist, or like nails to a chalkboard. But let’s face it, the gynecologic exam/Pap smear is a necessary part of preventative Women’s Health screening. Whether it’s your first visit, or you’re seeing the Ob/Gyn you’ve known for years, here are a few tips that may help to make your visit go more smoothly…
Prepare your questions/concerns
Make a list of your concerns/questions, include your medical history, medications, allergies, ect…
In that the average patient-physician interaction is 10-20 minutes, it’s helpful when your list of problems/concerns is concise. Know your medical/surgical history, medication allergies, and list your current medications. Think about (or write down) your problem list/symptoms, when they began/worsened, what aggravates/or improve the symptoms, and from a gynecologic perspective, if they’re cycling with your menstrual period. Understand that if your list of questions/concerns is long, we may have to address some of them at a subsequent visit.
I never really understood the wait time at a doctor’s visit…until I became one (a doctor, that is!)
I imagine it’s hard for patients to understand all the demands placed on a physician’s time, including the tasks that occur when the doctor is out of the exam room. We’re handling test results, reviewing your records/reports, taking calls from other doctors, checking for drug interactions in the scripts we’re writing, answering pages from the hospital on patients we’ve just left/operated on/or delivered, and clarifying instructions for the staff on follow-up for the patient that’s called or is checking out. Further, with the newer administrative/technical logistics required in the initial adoption of electronic medical records, for the healthcare provider, maneuvering through the patient visits may become even more cumbersome. If you have time constraints, try scheduling your appointment in the first hour of the session (either morning or afternoon,) as further into the session, unanticipated problems/questions/urgencies/interruptions may lead to delays, as we work through the full session of scheduled of patients.
The Pelvic Exam
I have my gynecologist’s appointment today…Eeeck!
It’s actually not uncommon for women to be nervous about their visit to the Gynecologist and for the pelvic exam. Be sure to let your provider know, so we can help to make you feel more at ease. Focus on deep breathing during the exam, which may help to distract/relax you for the exam. Don’t be embarrassed to mention bothersome symptoms such as heavy bleeding, painful periods, vaginal discharge or odor, leakage of urine, pain or bleeding with sex, changes in your libido, hot flashes, PMS symptoms, or concerns about STDs. We manage these problems regularly as Gynecologists and Women’s Health Providers.
Does my teenage daughter need a Pap smear?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the first reproductive health visit between 13-15 years of age. In most cases this will be a counseling appointment (just talking) to discuss their menstrual history, explain anatomy and STD prevention, to address contraceptive needs…and may not involve an actual pelvic examination. Once sexually active, the pelvic exam is recommended to screen for STDs, and may be necessary if complaints of pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding are present. Current guidelines suggest the actual Pap smear (done during the pelvic exam) is not necessary until 21 years of age or later. It’s important to understand the difference between the pelvic exam (visual and manual examination of the pelvic structures) and the Pap smear (a swab of cells collected from the cervix to screen for cervical cancer.)
More Trivial Matters
Oops, I haven’t shaved…
In casual conversation, I’ve heard ladies joke about their ‘personal hygiene’ in preparation for their visit to the Gynecologist…(trust me, I’m a lady too, I do understand!) Whether you’re shaved, waxed, your pedicure is fresh, or you’ve recently had sex, may matter to you, but has no real bearing on the appropriateness of your pelvic exam. Performing the actual Pap smear (a swab of cells collected to screen for cervical cancer) while you’re menstruating or when vaginal infection is present, may lead to false positive results. Therefore, obtaining the actual Pap smear may be deferred, even if a pelvic exam is warranted. Contact your physician’s office before your appointment for instructions on keeping versus rescheduling your appointment if you’re unsure.
Hopefully these tips will help to lessen your apprehension about your next visit to the Gynecologist, and will help to make your visit a more comfortable experience…
Suzanne Hall, MD