At Austin Women’s Health Center, we offer wellness exams as a part of our patient-centered gynecological practice. This blog will inform you as to what to expect at your first gynecologist appointment.
What to Expect at Your First Gynecologist Appointment
A gynecological wellness exam generally includes a pap test, pelvic exam, and breast exam. At your appointment, one of our providers will answer any questions or concerns you might have.
A provider will measure your weight, blood pressure, and pulse during a wellness exam, just like a general physical exam. Sometimes, you will be asked for a urine sample. Alongside a medical history, a wellness exam generally includes the following:
– A pelvic exam
– A pap test
– A breast exam
During the pelvic exam, a provider checks your reproductive organs for abnormalities, such as lumps or pain. A pelvic exam includes checking the vaginal canal while lightly pressing on the lower abdomen for any tenderness or abnormalities. A provider assesses the size of the uterus and ovaries during a pelvic exam. Typically, a pelvic exam lasts only a couple of minutes.
During a pap test or pap smear, a provider inserts a lubricated speculum, or duck-bill-shaped medical instrument, into the vaginal canal to open your vagina and examine the cervix. Your doctor will lightly sweep your cervix with a small brush to collect cervical cells. The cervical cells collected can help detect abnormal changes or precancerous cells around the cervix that could indicate the need for more frequent screening or treatment.
For a breast exam, a provider might ask you to place one arm above your head while they feel your breasts for any lumps or changes and then will switch sides.
A wellness exam is also a suitable time to ask your provider about any sexual or reproductive health questions you have or bring any symptoms to their attention. It is also a time to discuss and minimize sexual health risks and create a plan for birth control or safe sex.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), an annual wellness exam can include screening, evaluation, counseling, or immunizations, such as receiving the HPV vaccine. Taking a comprehensive medical history is a vital part of the exam too.
The Importance of Gynecological Wellness Exams
A gynecological wellness exam is an essential part of caretaking your reproductive health. During a wellness exam, a provider can screen for cancer, STIs, or other common gynecological issues such as urinary tract infections (UTIs.) A wellness exam checks the health of your breasts, vagina, uterus, and cervix.
Wellness exams can be lifesaving because a pap test screens for cervical cancer. Similarly, breast exams can detect abnormal masses, and a pelvic exam can identify early-stage cancers.
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Counseling on sexual health is also a critical component of wellness exams, making them a time to minimize future health risks and create preventative safeguarding strategies. If you are trying to get pregnant, your provider can discuss family planning. Annual wellness exams can also help mitigate the risk of unintended pregnancies.
A wellness exam can detect symptoms of STIs. Left untreated, some STIs can create lifelong complications such as chronic pain or infertility. Wellness exams help spot any abnormalities, such as unusual vaginal discharge, that could point to an STI so you receive diagnosis and treatment promptly.
How Often Should You Receive a Gynecological Wellness Exam?
Someone should receive a gynecological wellness exam once a year. In the past, providers advised people with the capacity for pregnancy to seek a pap test once a year. In recent years, however, this has changed. According to ACOG, people aged 21-29 can receive a pap test every three years if their last pap test was normal. A provider may recommend more frequent testing if someone has an abnormal pap.
After age 65, if you have not had an abnormal pap test or cervical cancer, or have had multiple negative screenings in a row, you can forego cervical screening or pap tests. After this age, the likelihood of having an abnormal pap test is low. A provider might omit pap tests if you’ve had a total hysterectomy. Sometimes, a provider may call for more frequent screening if you’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer or HIV, or have a weakened immune system.
Although people may receive pap tests every three years, scheduling a wellness exam once a year is still recommended. According to ACOG, you can have a first wellness exam between the ages of 13-15. A provider generally does not provide a pap test or pelvic exam during a first wellness exam but will collect a medical history and perform an external genital exam.
Why Choose AWHC for Your First Gynecological Wellness Exam
Now that you know what to expect at your first gynecological appointment, let us share with you why you should choose Austin Women’s health Center for your care. At AWHC, we provide non-judgemental pro-choice care and will always honor your decisions and autonomy. Our staff is well-versed in comprehensive reproductive health conversations and always prepared to answer any questions you might have during your wellness exam. We know that sometimes, patients may feel anxious about their wellness exams; we create a calming environment and safe space to discuss STIs, family planning, birth control, and sexual health and we value compassionate care.
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Annual wellness exams are one of the most significant ways someone can protect their reproductive health in the long run. We offer prompt appointments for care, and we work with most major insurance carriers. We believe that funds should never obstruct someone from accessing preventative care and work with funding organizations that can help you cover the cost of your appointment.
Pap tests and wellness exams are essential in the early diagnosis of many forms of reproductive cancers. Our mission is to ensure that our patients leave feeling informed, at ease, and with a plan for their sexual health. If you’d like to choose us for your care, you can make an appointment today by phone at 512-443-2888 or online here!