Though you might have to mentally prepare a bit before gynecologist appointments (no one loves them, right?), you probably don't have much else to do in the way of pre-visit prep. That being said, there are some things you might do — or want to do — before each appointment, but some are things your gynecologist wishes you'd stop doing for one reason or another. Whether they'll interfere with potential test results, like Pap smears, or just aren't necessary, your gynecologist wants you to know that it's OK or even preferable if you stop doing them.
There's probably no regular appointment that's, at least for most women, more uncomfortable than a gynecological appointment. It's a sensitive area that your doctor's examining and, not only that, but you probably only see them once a year or so unless there's something else going on. It's easy to be nervous about all manner of things related to your appointment — how you look, how you smell, what you'll talk about — but, chances are, your gynecologist has already pretty much seen or heard it all. They won't be fazed by your particular situation. If you're not sure what you shouldn't do or shouldn't worry about in the run-up to an appointment with your gynecologist, here's what you need to know.
1. Canceling An Appointment Because Of Your Period
Visiting your gynecologist while on your period might sound like the perfect way to make both experiences worse, but there's no need to cancel your previously scheduled appointment just because it's that time of the month. "As long as you aren’t 'hemorrhaging,' most Pap technology is good enough to still screen for cervical cancer," Dr. Angela Jones, an OB-GYN and Astroglide's resident sexual health advisor, tells Romper by email. "I know, no woman likes to be on her period, but this is more of an 'uncomfortable' situation for the patient, not the OB-GYN. Remember, this is what we do."
2. Having Sex
You might not think that any night-before or morning-of activities would affect your appointment in any way, but that's not necessarily true. "It [is] advised that nothing should be in the vagina two to three days before your OB-GYN appointment," Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB-GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health+Hospitals/Lincoln, tells Romper via email. That means, ideally, you should abstain for a few days before your appointment, not just the night before.
3. Running Out Of Contraception
Running out of contraception is never an ideal situation. While you might not be able to schedule an appointment in time, you don't have to let that be the excuse for you to run out. "As long as you’ve been seen within the year, most of us will gladly refill your oral contraceptive pill," Jones says. "Don’t wait for your appointment to mention you need a refill, or the weekend for that matter. There is nothing worse than 'missing that pill,' which can inevitably throw your period!" Give your doctor a call and explain what's going on, then go from there.
Like having sex, douching is not a good idea before going to see your gynecologist. "Both [sex and douching] obscure [or] mask abnormal cells that the Pap smear is screening for, leading to an erroneous result," Gaither says. Ideally, you shouldn't douche ever, though. Dr. Serena Chen, director for reproductive medicine at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas, told Seventeen, "Douches are actually associated with higher rates of pelvic inflammatory disease. The CDC specifically recommends against them." All you should need is a gentle cleanser.
5. Bringing Your Mom
This isn't about the younger women who bring their mom with them to their very first appointment, but if you're a grown woman, you probably should be going to most of your doctor's appointments without your mother, especially if you're then not going to honestly answer questions about sexual health and history. "OB-GYN visits are some of the more intimate visits we experience," Jones says. "If you don’t want your mom to know all your business, don’t bring her in!"
6. Self-Diagnosing And Self-Treating
While you might think you know what's going on down there, you can't really be sure without getting it confirmed by your doctor. "A lot of times cultures are in order to properly diagnose vaginal discharge, as it could be anything from a routine vaginitis (yeast, bacterial vaginosis…), to an STI (sexually transmitted infection)," Jones notes. You don't want to mistakenly identify or self-treat what's going on in your body while letting the real cause stay undetected. Make an appointment and then bring up the issue when you're there.
7. Making A Special Effort To Groom
"My patients are always apologizing for not shaving beforehand, and it really does not make a difference," Chen told Seventeen in the aforementioned article. "The doctor is not thinking about it." Don't stress if you're not as groomed as you'd like down there before you go in for your appointment. You're the only one bothered by it.
8. Waiting To Come In
Whenever you notice that there might be a problem, schedule an appointment. Don't put it off thinking you can just ignore it or you should just wait until your routine checkup to mention what's going on. It might be nothing, or it could be something. "Remember, knowledge is power," Jones says. "A proper exam and diagnosis leads to treatment." Put your mind at ease or get a jump start on treatment — either way, make the call and schedule the appointment.
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