What to expect at your annual exam

Here at Women’s Health Specialists, we know that the idea of your first annual gynecological exam might make you nervous, but never fear! Once you’ve become more familiar with the exam process and the procedures and questions involved, you’ll be much more likely to feel calm and at ease when the time for your exam comes around. Your annual exam is a standard and efficient procedure that goes a long way toward ensuring you maintain excellent overall health. 

Your regularly-scheduled annual exam allows the Women’s Health Specialists experts to check your feminine organs to ensure they’re all in good health and promote the best possible overall well-being. The actual physical part of the exam should take roughly around 10 minutes. In addition, there will be portions before and after the exam during which you can ask any questions you may have and answer any questions.  

 Read on to learn more! 

What to do before your annual examination. 

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends that you begin receiving your well-woman visit (the standard name for your annual gynecological examination) between 18-21. Additionally, you should begin receiving your exams three years after you become sexually active. 

Of course, if you begin to experience any sort of gynecological symptoms, it is recommended that you schedule an exam to deal with them directly. Common symptoms you may experience include any irregularity or change in your menstrual cycle, abnormal or major pelvic or vaginal pain, unexpected vaginal bleeding or discharge, tenderness, sores, swelling, lumps, itching, or unexpected changes to the breasts. 

If it is your first time receiving a gynecological appointment, you should probably tell your doctor it’s your first exam. This will help your specialist to provide you with the answers to many women’s questions during their first examination. It’ll also give them the insight they need to make you feel as comfortable and confident as possible. Remember, this is a normal and important part of every woman’s life! 

You’re welcome to have a friend or family member accompany you if you feel that would be helpful to make you feel more relaxed. We can also provide you with an additional nurse as a chaperone if you like. 

Besides that, you won’t have much to worry about when it comes to preparing for your first exam. You should avoid using douche, vaginal creams, or sexual intercourse for 24 hours before your exam. Additionally, be sure to call and reschedule if you begin your period when you are supposed to come in for your exam. 

What the Gynecological Exam Includes

Your physical exam will include the following standard features: an internal and external pelvic exam, a breast exam, a pap smear, and a urine sample. We’ll go over each of these below: 

Pelvic Exam

Your pelvic exam during the gynecological review consists of four primary steps. These are an external genital exam, a speculum exam, a Pap Smear test, and a bimanual exam. 

During the exam, you’ll be asked to lie on the examination table in a dressing gown, at which point you’ll place your feet in the foot rests. You’ll have a sheet draped across your legs to provide personal privacy. Once you’ve prepared yourself and gotten comfortable, your doctor will ask you to spread your knees, at which point, she’ll encourage you to relax and breathe deeply. It’s important at this point to avoid tensing your muscles, as this will impede the progress of your exam. If you’ve relaxed and are breathing deeply, this will make the process much faster and more comfortable overall. In the event that you’ve brought a friend or family member or asked for a chaperone, they will be positioned in such a way as to ensure your privacy. 

At this point, your doctor will perform a visual examination of the vulva and labia. Your doctor is checking for irregularities, including any irritation, swelling, redness or cysts, as well as visual signs and symptoms of any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 

Cervical Exam

After the genital exam, your doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina. The speculum is used to gently separate the vaginal walls in order to allow your doctor to examine the cervix. This may be accompanied by pressure or brief discomfort, but you can communicate with your doctor to ensure that it is within your tolerance for discomfort.  

When the speculum is opened, your cervix will be examined. The clinician is looking for signs of irritation, atypical discharge, or indications of sexually transmitted disease. With the speculum still in place, your healthcare provider will continue with the Pap Smear test.

What to expect at your annual examPap Smear

The Pap Smear is designed to check for precancerous or cancerous cells. Your Pap Smear will be a quick procedure during which cervical cells will be obtained (painlessly!) and checked to ensure they’re healthy and cancer free. This is a vital test for your overall health, as early detection is a major factor when it comes to the successful treatment of cervical and other cancers. 

Your Pap Smear results will be available within the next few weeks, so don’t worry! The next step is the bimanual exam. 

Bimanual Exam 

The bimanual exam is performed after the speculum has been removed and consists of insertion of a gloved and lubricated finger into the vagina. With their other hand, your doctor will press down on your stomach. This is important for determining the health of your internal organs. Just like with the other portions of your exam, communicate with your doctor to let them know how you’re doing. Some slight discomfort is normal, but you will never have to deal with more than you can handle. 

Breast Exam

The breast exam is brief and painless. Your health care provider will manually palpate your breast, feeling for lumps, thickening, or discharge. They will also teach you how to give yourself a personal breast exam.

Urine Sample

You will be asked to provide a urine sample. Urine is used to check for kidney health, various infections, and/or pregnancy.

Q&A with Your Gynecologist

A normal and important aspect of your exam is a question and answer portion with your doctor. During this session, answer any questions regarding your family history, current and recent health, as well as sexual activity. You will also receive questions related to your menstrual cycle, contraception, STD prevention, illnesses, surgeries, any pregnancies you may have had, as well as alcohol and drug use. 

Even though some of these questions can be quite personal, it is vital that you feel comfortable being entirely honest. Women’s Health Specialists takes great care to ensure that all of your answers are entirely confidential. This is also a great time to ask any questions you may have, so feel free! 

What to expect at your annual examCall Today to Schedule Your Exam 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read more about what to expect during your yearly exam. We know your health is important to you, and you can rest assured that when you come to see Women’s Health Specialists of Germantown, it’s important to us, too. We’re not just experts in women’s health, we’re your friends and neighbors, and we take pride in offering the best care available. Call today to schedule your appointment!