8 Questions to Ask Your Gyno on Your First Visit
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Your first trip to the gynecologist can seem intimidating, but fear not — it’s like going to any other doctor, only with stirrups involved. Still, you likely have many questions to ask your gyno on your first visit. What can you expect from your first visit? What should you be sure to ask? And, above all, is this trip going to hurt?
Fear not. Once you survive your first gynecologist appointment, you’ll be ready to help other young women tackle their first time. There’s very little pain, only slight discomfort. Most importantly, you’ll receive scientifically accurate information on everything from how to perform a proper breast self exam to what type of birth control is best for you and what your options are should it fail. Here’s a list of important questions to ask your gyno on your first visit!
1. What Can I Expect from This Exam?
I’ll let you in on a secret: Your first trip to the gynecologist will go much easier if you simply ask what to expect. Knowing what’s coming next will help you to relax. When the health center staff first takes you back to the room, ask the nurse what will happen during the exam and in what order.
It also helps to do a bit of homework before heading in to your appointment. Consider bringing a parent or friend with you if you’re very nervous — they will help you remember all the questions you want to ask should you forget due to nerves. Write down a list of your concerns and questions beforehand and bring this with you. This isn’t a test, so it’s okay to use a cheat sheet.
2. What Is the Best Birth Control Method for Me?
Most women who visit the gynecologist for the first time do so for the primary purpose of obtaining birth control. Today, tons of options exist for preventing pregnancy, although not all protect against STD’s. Those who have serious concerns about conceiving, especially if they reside in a state with new, restrictive abortion laws do well to ask about average effectiveness rate and potential benefits of doubling up by using two methods of contraception (for example, the pill and the cervical cap).
Love online quizzes? Take this assessment from Planned Parenthood to get an idea what method may work best for you before your visit. Those who don’t plan on conceiving in the next five to ten years may consider a method such as an IUD which requires little maintenance. Those thinking of getting pregnant sooner may prefer the pill or a diaphragm.
3. What Constitutes Normal Vaginal Discharge?
Most women experience vaginal discharge, and in many cases, this is normal. In general, if your discharge is clear or whitish, this is normal. In fact, when your discharge turns whitish halfway through your menstrual cycle, this indicates the best time to conceive, so keep this in mind if you use the rhythm method of birth control.
However, yellow or green discharge is a cause for concern. This may indicate an infection, including an STD. If you’re sexually active and experiencing this, be sure to mention it on your visit and include some questions to ask your gyno about discharge.
4. Should Sex Hurt the First Time? The Fifth?
In general, sex should not hurt. However, there are times when it may cause discomfort. You could be experiencing normal nerves about losing your virginity, or you may have an allergy to your partner’s sperm.
Sometimes, if you have a retroverted uterus (meaning it tips toward your spine, not your stomach), you may experience pain in certain positions when your partners’ penis hits your cervix. A pelvic exam can reveal if you have this condition. A retroverted uterus isn’t dangerous, nor will it impact fertility — but it can clue you in on which positions may cause discomfort.
5. How Do I Perform a Breast Self-Exam?
The best way to detect breast cancer in the early stages is to perform a breast self-exam. Learning how to perform this self-exam and doing so regularly is very important. Cancer is known to metabolize quickly in the body, so catching it early can mean the difference between ridding your body of it and having to fight it for many years to come.
Ask your gynecologist how to perform one properly. In general, such an exam is performed lying on your back, using your left hand to check your right breast and your right to check your left breast.
Women with fibrocystic breast disease often develop non-cancerous lumps after ovulating. If this condition runs in your family, aim to do your self-exam in the week immediately following your period when hormonal fibroid lumps are less likely to give false positives.
6. How Often Should I Get Tested for STDs?
If you’ve never been sexually active, you should be safe from STD’s. However, bear in mind some diseases can be transmitted through oral contact, such as herpes.
If you’re in a monogamous relationship, testing once per year is adequate. However, if you have sex with multiple partners, you should get tested as often as every three to six months.
7. When Should I See a Doctor for Period Problems?
If you’re still in your teen years, it’s normal for your period to remain somewhat irregular until young adulthood. If you reached menarche (had your first period) within the last two years, your menstrual irregularities are likely normal.
However, if you’re sexually active and miss a period, you should test for pregnancy immediately. Sperm can live in your reproductive system for up to five days after intercourse, which means they can survive in your system before your ovary releases an egg and fertilize the egg when it is released.
Otherwise, if you suffer severe cramping or symptoms which interfere with activities of daily living, see your gynecologist. The same goes if you have abnormally heavy periods which extend beyond six days in length.
8. How Can I Manage Hormonal Changes?
Hormonal changes can cause distressing symptoms such as acne, menstrual cramps and PMS. If you’re having severe hormonal swings, certain birth control methods like the pill can help. If your gynecologist partners with a naturopath, she may be able to recommend herbal treatments as well, so keep this in mind if you oppose birth control for religious reasons.
Know These Questions to Ask Your Gyno on Your First Visit
Your first trip to the gynecologist can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Bring along a loved one to hold your hand, and prepare questions to ask your gyno on your first visit. You’ll emerge from your visit wiser and savvy enough to take control of your sexual health.