Not the Time to Be Shy: Talking With My Gyno
Originally Published: November 21, 2012
Revised: November 21, 2012
At 15 years old, I’d never been to the gynecologist or gyno as I like to call her—a doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of women’s reproductive health. When Sex, Etc. asked me if I’d be willing to write about my first visit, I was more than willing. However, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was nervous. Wasn’t it going to be extremely awkward for a stranger to touch me down there and then talk about it?
Despite the nerves I had about visiting the gyno, I know that it’s extremely important for me to know as much about my body as possible to stay healthy. And how could my doctor help me be healthy if I didn’t feel comfortable and open enough to discuss anything with her? Even though I was nervous about what I thought would be an overall uncomfortable scenario, I knew that I needed to talk about anything and everything with my gynecologist to make sure I was healthy.
Q&A With My Gyno
When I first walked into the reception area with my mom, I was given a clipboard full of papers to fill out. This was new to me; usually I let my mom fill out everything for me. This time I had to do it, of course my mom’s signature was tacked under all of mine, since I’m still under 18. (Though my mom brought me to the doctor’s office, you can see a health care provider at a free or low-cost clinic without your parents, even if you’re under 18. Find a clinic near you with the Sex, Etc. clinic finder.)
After waiting a few minutes, a receptionist brought me—alone—into to another room to take my vitals. Aside from the usual height, weight and blood pressure, she asked me a series of questions I’d never answered before. She asked whether or not I was sexually active and if I had ever been pregnant, smoked, consumed alcohol or done drugs. These were only some of the many things she asked me. Questions I had a bit of trouble answering were more clinical, like the date of my very first period, first day of my last menstrual cycle and specific things about my period, like how long each cycle lasts, how bad my cramps are and other details I’d never given much thought to. She also dug deep into my family medical history. She asked who had hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancers and several other conditions. Soon enough, the Q&A was over and I was allowed to rejoin my mother in the waiting room.
Overall, I realized that the experience would’ve been more awkward if I had been too shy to ask questions.
The Exam Room
Only a few more minutes passed before I was brought into the exam room with my mom. There I was instructed to remove all of my clothes and put on a flimsy gown that opened in the front. Soon, the doctor came in, and she explained how confidentiality works in gynecology. Even though I’m not 18 yet, my parents don’t have to know about anything I discuss with my doctor, unless it’s a life threatening condition. After the doctor spoke to me about confidentiality, she gave me the choice of having my mom stay in the room or not. Politely, I asked my mom to step out. She did without argument. This allowed me and the doctor to talk before my physical examination.
During my talk with the doctor, I learned that girls are encouraged by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) to first visit the gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. This first visit serves as more of a “meet and greet” to make girls comfortable with visiting the gynecologist.
The doctor explained that gynecologists generally ask all girls the same universal questions—medical history, diseases in the past, any medical conditions, surgeries, allergies and family history are always asked.
My doctor also emphasized that girls should tell their gynecologist anything.
“We’re here to help, not to judge,” she says. She explained that there are no such things as dumb questions pertaining to sexual health, and she encourages girls to ask any and all questions they may have.
She said that there really isn’t a need for constant visits to the gynecologist if there aren’t any problems. It’s more of a case-by-case thing, she explained, but girls should definitely schedule a visit if they have any questions or concerns about their bodies or periods.
Finally, after our discussion, the physical examination took place. During a girl’s first visit, some health care providers don’t do an internal pelvic—which is when the doctor exams the reproductive organs. ACOG doesn’t recommend internal exams at the first visit, because they’re unnecessary if you don’t have any symptoms or physical issues.
My doctor explained to me that she would do an internal exam, but it would just be one “digit” or finger inserted inside the vagina while her other hand pressed on my abdomen. This allowed her to check things like my cervix, uterus and ovaries. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, it wasn’t that bad.
After the internal exam, she did a breast exam and taught me how to conduct a self-breast exam, to make sure there are no lumps around my breasts. Soon enough, the exam was over and I was, thankfully, allowed to put my clothes back on.
Tips for Your First Gyno Visit
Overall, I realized that the experience would’ve been more awkward if I had been too shy to ask questions. So if you’re too nervous or shy to talk with your health care provider, here are a few tips:
Make a list. It can’t hurt to have everything written down, and plus, this way you can’t forget to ask about any concerns you may have.
Be open. Be sure to ask your health care provider any questions you may have about your body, sex or sexual health. The doctor can only help if he or she knows what exactly is going on. If you feel like you just can’t tell your health care provider what’s going on, write it down and share it with him or her during the visit. Remember that what you share with your doctor will not be shared with anyone, so be honest.
The way to make the most out of your appointment is to be relaxed and open. Being able to ask questions and talk openly and honestly made the exam—and entire trip—a lot easier for me. My first trip to the gynecologist definitely broke the ice for me, and now I know what to expect in the future. Take it from me—even though I was nervous beforehand, I learned that going to the gynecologist is not a bad or even scary experience!
Photo courtesy of Teen Clinic
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