The annual well woman exam often makes women feel nervous or uncomfortable, especially if it’s your first one. If it’s time to schedule your first well woman exam, it can help to know exactly what to expect to help you feel prepared and at ease during your appointment.
Why Do You Need an Annual Well Woman Exam?
It’s completely understandable to feel anxious before your first well woman exam, but it’s important not to delay scheduling your appointment. You should schedule your first well woman exam when you become sexually active or when you turn 21. You should also schedule an exam if you experience any menstrual irregularities or pelvic pain.
A well woman exam is the only way to detect early stages of cervical cancer, and it’s the first line of defense against diseases of the female reproductive system. That’s why it’s so important to be diligent with scheduling your annual exam.
What to Expect During Your First Well Woman Exam
A well woman exam will start like any other doctor’s appointment. You will be asked to fill out paperwork with questions about your family medical history, any medications you’re taking, general demographic information, your menstrual cycle, whether or not you’re sexually active, and if you’ve been pregnant before. A nurse will take your height, weight, and blood pressure and may ask follow-up questions about your intake forms. They will then give you a dressing gown and leave the room so you can change.
There are four parts of the well woman exam: the physical exam, breast exam, pelvic exam, and pap smear.
The physical exam is much like what your general practitioner would do during an annual physical, but it can be more convenient to get your physical done at the same time as your well woman exam. Your gynecologist will review your medical history and ask about any current issues. They will check your vital signs, heartbeat, lungs, head, neck, abdomen and reflexes. Sometimes they will ask for blood work or a urine sample.
Breast exams help detect early signs of breast cancer. During the breast exam, your gynecologist will look for lumps or irregularities in your breasts. They will also teach you how to perform a self-examination, which you should do once every month.
The dreaded pelvic exam helps detect early stages of cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and any causes of inflammation. During the pelvic exam, your doctor will ask you to lie down with your feet elevated on leg rests. Your gynecologist will examine the outside of your vagina for redness, irritation, discharge, and any signs of other conditions. Then, they will examine the size and position of your ovaries, uterus, cervix, and vagina by inserting the fingers of one hand into the vagina while the other hand presses down on your abdomen from the outside. Women 21 and older should get a pelvic exam once per year. If you are under the age of 21, you should get a pelvic exam if you experience menstrual irregularities, vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain.
A pap smear helps to detect early forms of cervical cancer. Your gynecologist will insert a small brush or spatula to gently scrap a tissue sample from the cervix while the speculum is in place. A pap smear shouldn’t be painful, but you will likely feel a brief pinching sensation. If you are 21 or older, or are sexually active, you should have a pap smear test done every other year.
Have questions or concerns? Call Dr. Saska Sookra. Lifestream Family Medicine wants to be your primary care facility. Contact us to schedule an appointment by clicking this link or calling (941) 755-0433