If You Get Your Period Before an Ob-Gyn Appointment, Here's What a Doctor Says to Do

If you got your period right before an ob-gyn appointment (it always has the best timing!), you wouldn't be the first to wonder if it's an issue.

Annual check-ups, pap smears, and appointments for issues like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis typically require pelvic exams. Your doctor will have you put your feet in the stirrups, insert a speculum to widen your vagina, and visually inspect your vagina and cervix. For some appointments, they'll need to gather cell samples from your vaginal fluid, and it's only logical to wonder whether period blood can get in the way of that.

"If you're going for your annual exam, yes, 100 percent, it is fine to go during your period," said Leah Millheiser, MD, ob-gyn and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Health Care. That can even include getting a pap smear done. Traditional guidelines typically asked for patients to wait until after their period was over for this exam, but according to Dr. Millheiser, newer pap smears (also called pap tests) can assess your cells even in the presence of blood. You can always check with your provider if you're unsure, but "if your appointment is already scheduled and you have your period, there's no reason to cancel it," Dr. Millheiser said.

For yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis examinations, Dr. Millheiser said, your doctor will need gather a sample of your vaginal discharge. They'll place the fluid on a slide and examine the cells under a microscope to reach a diagnosis, and "sometimes, if there's blood present, that can interfere in the doctor's ability to read that slide," Dr. Millheiser explained. Unless your symptoms are severe, it may be best to wait until after your period is over to have those tests done, so you can ensure the results are readable and accurate. That said, if the symptoms are uncomfortable or difficult to deal with, Dr. Millheiser advised seeing your doctor sooner rather than later, even if you're still on your period.

If you are going to the ob-gyn on your period, Dr. Millheiser said you can leave your tampon or menstrual cup in until right before the exam. Other than that, though, there are no special procedures or things to do before heading into the office, and you definitely shouldn't feel embarrassed or awkward in front of your healthcare provider. After all, they're an ob-gyn; they know what to expect from a women's menstrual cycle. Unless you yourself don't feel comfortable with it (or would rather stay home nursing your cramps in peace — understandable!), it's OK to keep your appointment on the schedule. "In general, having your period and going to the gynecologist is not a big deal at all," Dr. Millheiser said. "It's perfectly fine, and you should go."