The first visits to an OBGYN can be frightening, especially for a teenager. However, like many of life’s panic-inducing events, the more info a patient has, the easier the process will be. Below are some tips on what to expect from, and how to prepare for, a gynecological exam.
What the Patient Should Expect On Arrival at an OBGYN Appointment
When a patient arrives at the OBGYN doctor’s office, she will likely begin by filling out some informational forms for the doctor and nursing staff. Later, the staff member who takes the patient to the examination room may ask some similar questions. There’s no need to worry; all of a patient’s answers are confidential, which means they cannot be shared without the patient’s permission. The papers to be filled out and the conversation with the doctor or nurse may include questions on:
The reason for the appointment
The patient’s hereditary and personal health histories
Vitamins, supplements and medicines the patient is taking
Surgeries the patient has had
Whether the patient is sexually active
Age at which the first menstrual period occurred, and when the last one started
Whether the patient smokes, drinks alcohol, or uses illicit drugs
The name of the patient’s primary care physician
An emergency contact’s name and phone number
If a parent or longtime family friend won’t be there with the patient to fill out the paperwork, the patient may wish to do some pre-emptive research and ask about her own and her family’s health history. Find out whether any close relatives have suffered from diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease or other chronic conditions. When a patient goes by herself to the OBGYN doctor’s office, she should ensure that she has any necessary information about the family’s health insurance plan and copayments.
During the Visit
At an OBGYN visit, a patient will likely spend time with the nurse first, and then with an obstetrician/gynecologist. An OBGYN is a physician who focuses on women’s reproductive care, including the breasts, uterus and vagina. These doctors monitor pregnancies and deliver babies as well. Obstetrician/gynecologists care for women throughout their lives, starting with a teenager’s first appointment. In some cases, a family doctor or pediatrician may be able to perform an initial gynecological exam.
Discussing Health Concerns
A teen’s first appointment with an OBGYN doctor may include a conversation with the doctor and/or the nurse about her health and any worries she may have. This discussion is the perfect time for the patient to ask what she should expect from the exams, both the physical and the vaginal/pelvic exams (if necessary). These examinations may include testing for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) if the patient is sexually active.
About Exams During OB Visits
From a young patient’s vantage point, the most frightening part of a visit to the gynecologist is typically the physical exam. A patient may be asked to remove her clothes and put on a special gown or robe. A nurse is often present in the examination room, and if the patient chooses, she can ask a relative, friend or parent to be there as well. Many teen girls bring their mothers with them for moral and physical support. A patient may have several basic examinations during a gynecologist visit:
The physical exam. Here, the nurse will take the patient’s weight, blood pressure and pulse. If the patient has other health concerns, they may be addressed at this time.
The breast exam. The gynecologist may examine the patient’s breasts. She may be asked to raise and lower her arms as the doctor lightly palpates (presses) the area.
An external exam. The doctor may ask the patient to lie down and put her legs up in stirrups and look at the external genital area. This exam ensures that the patient has started puberty and that she’s developing normally.
The pelvic exam. This step may not be part of a first visit, especially if the patient is not active. During a pelvic exam, the doctor will use an instrument known as a speculum to look inside the vagina. He or she may use a long cotton swab to collect mucus and cell samples to test for certain cancers and infections. After the speculum is removed, the doctor may check the positioning of the patient’s ovaries, vagina and uterus with a gloved hand.
A Time for Patient Questions
The ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) suggests that girls make their first gynecological visit between age 13 and 15. One of the most important reasons to visit an OBGYN is to ask questions about the body and reproductive/sexual health. During the visit, the patient should ask plenty of questions about the tests and exams she’ll have done, and find out when the test results will be known. Patients should ask how they can keep themselves healthy until their next visit, and no question is stupid or inappropriate. For most young women, questions concerning the menstrual cycle are quite common.
The first visit to an obstetrician or gynecologist can be a frightening experience for a young woman, especially if she goes alone. Going to that first visit may give the patient a feeling of uneasiness, but it’s important to take that first step toward better reproductive health. Regular gynecological checkups can help young women form a habit that lays the foundation for a lifetime of good health, and it is one of the most important steps young women can take.
For a caring Doctor, Mary Parker ObGyn in Bedford Texas is accepting new patients. Her clinic, along with Dr. Beverly Wood provides all services for women and expecting mothers.