Ace Your Gyno Exam: What to Know and What to Ask

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We know attending a gynecological (gyno) appointment can cause some apprehension. It’s common to feel uneasy about exposing your private areas to a doctor you’ve only met a handful of times.

Are you ever unsure of what to say? Maybe you’re insecure about an abnormal symptom you’re experiencing. Maybe you’re timid about admitting that you don’t take precautions during sexual intercourse. Or perhaps you have painful, lengthy periods and don’t know where to turn. Don’t sweat it — we’re here to offer judgment-free advice.

We know it can feel awkward, but seeing a gynecologist regularly is important. Here are some answers to common questions, and some things you should definitely speak up about.

When should I get my first Pap smear?

Pap smears scan for cervical cancer and can also identify infections or inflammation in the vagina. Pap smears are highly encouraged once a woman turns 21 years of age, and should be conducted every three to five years.

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If I have my period during my scheduled appointment, should I reschedule?

That time of the month can be uncomfortable enough with the sore breasts, irritability, and painful cramps. However, there is no medical reason to cancel your appointment when menstruating. Try to remember the date of your last period and how long it lasted, as this will be a question asked during your appointment.

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Between visits, what can I do in my own time for my gynecological health?

Be sure to monitor your menstrual cycle and take note of any changes such as irregularity or abnormal pain. Engage in safe, protected sexual intercourse by using a condom to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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What do I do if I’ve had unprotected sex and think I may have been exposed to an STD?

Do not wait for your next visit to get tested. Schedule an appointment for a test as soon as possible.

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What is normal when it comes to vaginal discharge?

“Normal” vaginal discharge is typically clear, white, or yellow. Although it may seem a bit foreign, discharge is a way for your body to cleanse itself and helps to protect your vagina from irritation and infection. It should be fairly odorless and should not cause itching or burning. However, if you notice a change in color, odor, or frequency, you could have an infection and should seek medical assistance.

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Do I really need a breast exam? My breasts look fine.

Breast exams are crucial as they check for irregularities such as bumps and lumps in the breast tissue. You can expect a medical professional will make gentle motions both circular and linear with his or her fingers. Be sure to make the doctor aware if you are experiencing pain at any point during the exam. If you are above the age of 40, the gynecologist may recommend a mammogram screening to test for breast cancer.

Anything you say to a gynecologist will be in confidence and in an environment free of judgment. Prior to your appointment, write down a list of questions to ask and your gynecologist will be happy to answer or alleviate any and all concerns.

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Kristin Yates, DO

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about a gynecologic visit. Our staff does their best to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease. We encourage women to make time to invest in their health and that is what we are here to help with.

— Kristin Yates, D.O.

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