How to feel as calm and prepped as possible for your next gyno appointment
One of the most informative moments I had while working with teenagers and young adults was how open-question sessions almost always landed on sex and sexual health topics. Young human minds tend to be ever-curious to learn more about contraception, hormones, stories and advice about sex. The position I was in to speak about these topics with them was as a complete outsider to their school teachers or nurses (if they had one). I came in from a non-profit and was there specifically to speak about things like boundary setting and how to talk about tough subjects - like getting answers about their health they were too shy to ask. Fast forward many years and I have noticed that these subjects don’t stop bringing up questions and anxieties into our 20’s and 30’s as well.
Recognizing that you are important and that your health is important is a key step in empowering yourself and getting the healthcare that you need.
Sex is good when all parties are excited and consenting, sex is fun when you’re ready for it and have taken charge of being safe. Sex is not something to be pressured into or a place where safety is left to chance. Having a great sex life involves being confident and you do that by knowing your limits (boundary-setting), and staying on top of your physical and mental sexual health. Today we’re here to talk about how to tie all of this into that visit to your gynaecologist (gyno).
How to feel confident going to the gynaecologist
Fast forward from teen-hood and you’re around 21 years old, it’s either your first time going to the gyno or you’re just wanting a better experience. Things like picking your care provider, knowing the types of questions that you can ask, and some general tips on making the most of the experience can help you have a well-prepared and calm visit. Here’s what you can do to feel prepped and empowered the next time you need to make that scooch to the edge of that gurney a bit more relaxed.
How to pick your gyno
Are you more comfortable with a male or female, or are you indifferent? You might not always have a choice, for example if you live in a small town, it's an emergency, or if there’s a language barrier. Otherwise, you can try different health professionals until you find one that you feel comfortable with. Making your preferences known when you make an appointment is an important step in setting up boundaries, if you need to make one there. There are great male gynos and great female ones, the choice is yours to make.
What questions you should ask your gynaecologist
This depends on why you’re there. Is it for an annual check-up? Is there a smell or some pain that is different from your typical cycle? Are you thinking about having sex or think you might be pregnant? It’s good to know why you are going and essential to try and have all of your questions answered. Here are some things you can ask during your vaginal health exam:
- What your contraceptive options are based on your lifestyle. Are you wanting to reduce cramps or not get pregnant? Not everyone wants to take the birth control pill, some want longer-term options like an intrauterine device (IUD). Or maybe you’re curious about the ring. Talk to them about options based on your lifestyle, preferences, and what you’re wanting from a contraceptive.
- Body image issues or changes related to hormones
- Mood swings and depression
- Pregnancy, either concerns or excitement about it
- Sexual activity and safety. You can ask them to show you how to put on a condom or use a dental dam, how to stay safe, and also what to do if you need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Sexual orientation or gender identity curiosity
A good healthcare provider won’t rush you or judge you, but that’s not always the case. You might feel a bit nervous or rushed in the office, doctors are busy people, but you are 100% entitled to sit there and have all of your questions answered. So do it! Also, if you’re trying a new healthcare provider, many now have reviews online that you can check out before you go. Recommendations can also be helpful from people you know and trust. Recognizing that you are important and that your health is important is a key step to empowering yourself and getting the healthcare that you need. We fully recognize that this is easier said than done, but that’s why we’re doing these tips!
Image from @YourPeriodCalled
General tips on being prepped for a visit to the gyno
As we said before, knowing why you’re going and getting your list of questions ready is a great step. While it may seem trivial, having a list on paper and not on your phone is helpful. Put the list in front of you on the desk when you arrive and you’re more accountable to get through the list than on a phone that's in your pocket.
Here are some other ideas:
- Bring a pen to write down the answers. When you’re nervous or shy, you can forget a lot of the information and medical terms are so hard to remember. Do yourself a favour and write them down, as well as when a follow-up should/can happen. I started a 'Note' in my phone where I would log notes from all of my doctor's visits, not to sound dramatic, but this changed my life.
- Do not set an appointment or meeting for right after. Doctor visits are notorious for taking longer than anticipated and stressing about rushing out of there is not how you take good care of your health.
- If you’re nervous, bring a friend or family member with you. They might not go in the room with you, but knowing they’re on the other side of the wall is really helpful.
- Make sure you have eaten and have drank some water that day, after all, we’re only machines and need fuel to be at our best.
- Don’t believe everything you read online, leave the medical advice for the professionals.
Visiting the doctor is not always the best experience, but it is a key aspect to keeping ourselves healthy. They are there to help you stay healthy both proactively through check-ups and getting your questions answered, and to help you when something is wrong. If you’re curious, you click here to learn more about how to keep the vagina clean and about natural period cramp relief.
When should I start going to the gynaecologist?
If you’re asking yourself that question then you probably have a reason to think you should. As a rule of thumb, a first doctor's visit on the topic of sexual health should begin after your first period. While we normally go to the doctor only when we’re sick, this visit is part of you taking care of yourself proactively. Having to go to check-ups, including this first one, does not mean that anything is wrong with you.
This first visit is important because it gives you an opportunity to ask questions from a qualified medical professional and breaks the ice for future trips. During this visit you might only need to do a physical exam where they check your lungs, your heart and blood pressure etc. They will ask you questions about your period like if you have cramps and how often your period happens. It can be tough and feel awkward but it’s important to answer honestly. If you have heavy periods, bad cramps, or other symptoms that are not fully typical, they might do an internal pelvic exam.
Your family doctor is often the person who does this first meeting on sexual health as most people only start to see a gyno around 21, depending on your country.
How have you gyno experiences been? Did you try our tips! Let us know how it went.
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