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What Should I Expect? A Guide to Your First Well-Woman Visit

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Jaime Edwards, MD
What Should I Expect? A Guide to Your First Well-Woman Visit

Young women often have many questions before seeing an obstetrician/gynecologist for the first time – and usually with a little uncertainty or fear.

But, visits to the obstetrician/gynecologist or OB/GYN are important and an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. These well-visits should become part of your annual routine, and establishing a good patient-doctor relationship at a younger age also helps improve the quality of the health care you receive.

Most young women should have their first visit between 13-15 years, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Many girls will not need a pelvic exam during the first visit. This is a time to begin a relationship with the gynecologist so sharing personal information in the future is more comfortable.

While all teenage girls should see a gynecologist, it is especially important for sexually active teens or those who have problems with their periods.

What happens at a well-woman visit?

For some, the first visit may just be a talk, while others might include a physical exam. A well-woman visit usually includes three parts:

  • Conversation -- to learn more about your health, a nurse or doctor will ask you about your lifestyle and habits.
  • A physical examination
  • Counseling and a strategy for a healthy lifestyle.

Whether or not you have testing will depend on your age, whether or not you’re sexually active and your medical history. Your doctor or nurse may perform a clinical breast exam, pelvic exam if needed and/or Pap smear.

Pelvic exams are recommended starting at age 21 for healthy women. But, a woman who has heavy bleeding, painful periods or unusual vaginal discharge might need a pelvic exam sooner.

To begin the pelvic exam, the doctor will have you lay down with your feet in stirrups. He or she will visually examine your external genitalia for redness, irritation, discharge and other signs. Then, your doctor will conduct an exam by placing fingers inside the vagina and pressing down on your abdomen from the outside.

The doctor will also use a speculum and lubrication to view your cervix, the opening to the uterus, and look for any irregularities.

Gynecologists recommend a Pap smear starting at age 21 and then every three years for women in their 20s to look for irregularities in the cervix’s tissue that could lead to cancer. He or she will use a very small brush or spatula to remove a tissue sample that will be analyzed in a lab.

Most likely, your doctor will also perform a breast exam to check for abnormalities in your breast tissue, and will show you how to perform self-exams between appointments.

Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) isn’t a regular part of a well-woman visit. But, if it’s necessary, the doctor will perform a cervical/vaginal swab or ask for a urine or blood sample.

During your visit, the doctor will review some personal information so you may want to be prepared to answer questions about:

  • Your medical history
  • Family health history
  • Sexual activity
  • Menstrual cycle (or periods)
  • Eating and exercise habits
  • Relationships
  • Mental health.

Answer honestly so that your doctor can offer the best possible care. Since it’s easy to forget questions or concerns, write them down before your visit.

To schedule a well-woman visit, call Magnolia Obstetrics & Gynecology at (985) 230-APPT [2778.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists