Hi. My name is Noelle, I'm 24, and I just went to the gynecologist for the first time.
I realize that you might be a little shocked it took me so long to go, but here's the thing: I've never had any problems with my menstrual cycle so I just never felt the urgent need to go. I saw the whole avoiding-a-stranger-poking-around-my-vagina thing as an upside.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
With that said, I realized that there are other important reasons to go to the gyno worth bearing the aforementioned awkwardness other than to figure out why you're not getting your period regularly. It's a preventative measure so that if you do have any issues with your vagina or reproductive system that wouldn't present themselves immediately, like cervical or breast cancer or an STD, your doctor can catch them early and treat them. Also, according to OBGYN and consultant for the Know Your Birth Control campaign, Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, you should be getting a pap smear and pelvic exam once a year from the age of 21, whether your period is regular or not.
So, realizing that I was pushing my luck with the whole "I can totally wait one more year," thing, I decided to suck it up and find a gyno. And seeing as I work for Seventeen.com, why not document my whole experience so you know exactly what's going to go down when you, too, finally go to the gyno?
Making THE Appointment
For some reason, I thought finding a gynecologist was going to be a massive undertaking. I thought gynos only took on new patients every 103 years, and therefore, you have to fight tooth and nail to get on some waiting list. I saw it as a rigorous application process one might experience trying to get into an extremely prestigious and well-respected prep school.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
When I finally got down to it, the process was less like applying to a prep school and more like signing up for pal soccer in second grade (AKA, you get on the team no matter what). I basically asked a friend where she goes. She gave me her gyno's name and told me how much she loved the practice, so I went to their website and signed up for an appointment online. It LIT-ER-AL-LY took 15 minutes. Not one phone call made.
I made an appointment for about a month later (gynos are pretty busy in NYC, apparently) and forgot about it until about a week before when Google (what would I do without you?) reminded me it was a week away.
I immediately began freaking out. For one, other than some trimming and shaving of my bikini line, I am au naturel ~down there~ (which only my closest friends know, so welcome to my inner circle). Should I shave? Then there was the irrational fear that I had a mutant vagina and just didn't know it. (I saw this trailer for a horror movie about a girl who had teeth in her vagina once and it messed me up, I guess.)
Other than some trimming and shaving of my bikini line, I am au naturel ~down there~. Should I shave?
There was no turning back now. Everyone I'd asked about gynos said that they are totally non-judgmental about whether or not you shave down there. I'm not against going bare down there or anything and I could have shaved, but the regrowth process is painful and itchy and I didn't feel like it was worth going through for a gynecologist who sees all types of vages. It's not like I'd be their first patients with hair down there.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
As for the mutant vagina worries, well, I just tried to put that stupid horror movie trailer out of my head.
The Appointment (Pre-Awk)
On the day of my appointment, I was as ready as I'd ever be (as in, not ready at all, but I didn't exactly have a choice). I showed up on time, filled out a medical history form, and the kind office staff showed me to my examination room.
After what felt like forever (but was probably about 5 minutes), my doctor came in and introduced herself. She asked if I was okay with a well-trained nurse practitioner conducting my exam. It's totally normal for nurse practitioners or physician assistants to conduct routine exams like these. Not only do they have graduate-level education, but medicine is a team sport, and if anything is unusual about your exam, they'll consult with your physician. With that said, you are free to say no if you don't feel comfortable being seen by an NP or PA, but keep in mind, that means you might have to wait longer to schedule an appointment with a doctor. I was fine with being seen by a nurse practitioner, though, so I said yes.
After that, the nurse practitioner, who I'll call Jessie, came in and started my exam. She was an altogether pleasant person. If I wasn't so nervous, I probably would have remembered everything she said to me, but I just recall that she was kind and tried to be as comforting as possible as we went over my medical history. "Family history is very important for the first exam because it kind of dictates how we treat the patient," said Dr. Lakeisha.
Did I have any history of cancer in my fam? No. Did I smoke? No. Had I been vaccinated for HPV? Yes. Had I ever gotten a pap smear? No. She asked about my sexual history. It went on and on like that for a while with me awkwardly answering each question, until finally, she asked me if I wore a seat belt in cars (not sure why that's relevant, but, yes), and then it was time for the exam.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
She told me to get undressed and put on the long blue robe that was placed on a chair for me. Word to the wise: put the robe on with the open part in front. You know, like a normal robe. That might seem obvious to you but, for some reason, I thought I was supposed to wear it like a hospital gown. You know, the ones that patients in hospital comedies wear so that when they shuffle slowly past the protagonist in their plush slippers, there's that dark comedic moment you realize you can see the patient's butt? Yeah, you're not supposed to wear it like that.
Word to the wise: put the robe on with the open part in front. You know, like a normal robe.
I put it on that way and got all comfy on the exam table, only to have Jessie come back in and ask me to turn it around (because how was she going to examine my breasts and vagina if I'm laying on the opening of the robe?). She ended up standing in the corner facing the wall as I flipped it around. SMH. I'm so awkward.
Once I got my robe on right, it was time. Jessie started the exam, which began with harmless tests I was used to from my regular physicals, like a thyroid examination and pressing on my stomach.
Then came the breast exam, where the doctor or nurse looks at and feels your breasts and under your arms for lumps or anything unusual. This part was was a little more embarrassing, but I'd gotten breast exams before so I was used to it. The only difference that surprised me was she actually, like, squeezed my nipple. I can't remember a doctor ever doing that before, but there was a good reason for it. She was checking for discharge and lumps in the nipple.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
The Exam Exam, AKA The Awkward Part
After that, it was time to start the part of the exam I was dreading most. Before starting the vaginal exam, Jessie asked if I wanted to get a Pap smear, which is a screening meant to test for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix. It's a test you should get done whether you're sexually active or not and you should get tested every 3 years, though there is no need to get one before the age of 21 if you are not sexually active. Since I'd never been to the gyno before, I thought it best to get one, so I said yes.
She also asked at this point if I wanted to get tested for STDs. Even if you're not sexually active and are pretty positive you're STD free, you should think about saying yes to the STD screening just in case. STDs, like herpes, can be passed from person-to-person through skin-to-skin contact as simple as kissing.
Then it was time to start the exam.
Jessie pulled these footrests out from the front of the examination table and asked me to place my feet in them and scoot my body forward until my butt was at the edge of the table and my legs were wide open. It's really hard to scoot anywhere in one of those loose paper gowns, so I ended up having to kind of bounce like five times until my legs were spread wide open in front of Jessie. It was, perhaps, the most ungraceful thing I've ever done. But Jessie didn't seem to feel awkward and she didn't run away when I opened my legs, so I guess I don't have a mutant vagina. #Win
First she used what's called a speculum to open up my vagina and look inside and get easy access to the cervix. It looks like this:
I'd spoken to my roommate about this part beforehand and she said that when her doctor did it, it didn't hurt at all. Plus, Jessie assured me that she was using a ton of lubrication so all I would feel is a little bit of pressure. She walked me through the entire process, telling me exactly what she was doing as she did it and noting that if I did feel any pain, I should let her know.
"Okay, I'm putting it in now," she said, and I felt a light pressure as she slipped the speculum inside of me. "Okay, relax now. I'm going to start opening it." She started to crank the speculum open, and the pressure began to increase. It felt a little uncomfortable. "Just a little more," she said, as it actually started to get a little painful. And right when I thought I was going to have to tell her it was too much, she stopped opening it. I'm not going to lie: it was kind of painful. Not unbearable, but I did feel a kind of throbbing pressure that was not pleasant. I'm guessing it's because I was nervous and didn't relax my muscles enough. But I didn't find the pain extreme or unbearable, so I didn't say anything .
Once she had the speculum in place, she took a long little brush and swiped the inside of my vagina with it. It just felt like a little poke, poke, but wasn't painful (not any more than the throbbing feeling of the speculum, at least). She removed the speculum then, letting me know that if I had some spotting after, it was completely normal.
The last part of the exam was the most excruciatingly awkward part. Jessie manually examined my reproductive organs, which required her to insert two fingers into my vagina while pressing down on my abdomen. It didn't hurt whatsoever, but it was a little odd to have a stranger putting their actual fingers inside of me. She felt around in there for about 5 seconds and then it was over.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Like really over. She told me I could sit up and close my legs and cover up (thank God). Once I was modest again, Jessie took my blood pressure, just like any other physical.
Finally, Jessie asked me if I had any questions about anything. I asked her what age you're supposed to start going to the gyno, and she told me that you should start going as soon as you become sexually active or if you're 21 or older (clearly, I was a little late). I didn't have any more questions, other than how I would know if my pap smear results were normal ("No news is good news," she said).
Usually, it takes one to three weeks to get Pap test results, so if your doctor doesn't call within that timeframe to make you aware of abnormal results, it typically means your test came back normal. If the test does show that something could be wrong, though, your doctor will contact you to schedule more tests to figure out what's going on (abnormal results don't automatically mean cancer or anything's wrong). With that said, if you're nervous and haven't heard from your doctor, you should always feel free to call to follow up.
Then I was free to go.
And that was IT!
So, In Conclusion...
As much as I hyped it up and avoided going to the gynecologist because of how horrible and awkward I imagined it would be, the appointment really wasn't bad at all.
It was weird to bare my private parts in front of a stranger and get examined down there, but Jessie was super nice, and although there was no way she could make me feel totally comfortable, she tried her best. She never judged me, so if I do have a mutant vagina, she has the best poker face in the world.
While the speculum was a little painful, it wasn't unbearably so, and it was over in the blink of an eye. Even though the idea of having someone stick their fingers in me was mortifying, Jessie made it as not awkward as possible with her positive, unaffected attitude. Bottom line: the idea of it was way worse than the actual experience.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
What's crazy is the part I dreaded the most (the part where they're poking around down there), was the shortest part. My legs were probably only open on that table for five to eight minutes in the end. The rest of the time was spent talking and doing all the types of exams you're already used to from regular physicals (and that didn't take long either).
Bottom line: the appointment I had so dreaded for so long was altogether a non-event.
In the end, the appointment I had so dreaded for so long was altogether a non-event.
Even if things like cervical cancer and breast cancer are rare in teens and young women, regular visits to the gyno are an important preventative measure that helps make sure you don't develop these issues. And if you do develop them, the regular exams will help to detect them early enough so you can get the most effective treatment.
Even though I was okay (as I expected), considering how important reproductive health is, it was worth the minimal awkwardness I experienced to make sure everything was actually alright down there. Then again, it's only been a week since my exam... if I get any word to the contrary from my doctor, I'll let you know.
The moral of the story: yes, going to the gyno is going to be really awkward, but it's like 30 minutes of awkwardness that you'll most likely (hopefully) be able to forget as soon as you walk out the door. And if they detect something is wrong, it means that going was really worth it.
Source : https://www.seventeen.com/health/sex-health/a40032/what-happens-at-first-gynecologist-appointment/3106