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The How-To Lounge: Your Annual Pelvic Exam, Part I

I don’t know any women who actually enjoy a trip to the gynecologist, though feelings about settling into the stirrups tend to vary from mild annoyance to extreme anxiety. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, it’s important to make the most of your annual exam. To see my suggestions to do just that


  • First of all, make sure you have a doctor that you like. A doctor you're comfortable with can mean the difference between a traumatic experience and an appointment that you don't actually dread going to. If you need to find a new gyno, ask your friends or female coworkers — word-of-mouth recommendations are the very best kind!
  • Try to get a morning appointment. It means less of a wait for you, and it’s always nice to go straight from the shower to the table. While there’s absolutely no rule that says you need to be cleaned up before an appointment, for many woman, knowing they're fresh down there is a huge relief.
  • Also, when making your appointment, remember to schedule around your period. It’s best to go in during the middle of your cycle, but definitely avoid the week when you expect to be menstruating.
  • Know the start date of your most recent period beforehand. This is a great habit to get into for all doctor appointments, but especially at the gynecologist because cervical fluid changes based on your cycle.
  • Refrain from having sex without a condom 24 hours prior to your appointment as semen can make a proper pap smear and exam difficult. The same goes for douching, too!

I have even more tips to keep in mind at the next visit to your gynecologist, so stay tuned for part two!


Join The Conversation
Chloe08 Chloe08 9 years
My first exam was HORRIBLY painful. Now, I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but it was awful. I ended in tears from the pain, and the nurse-practitioner giving me the exam felt so bad that she didn't even finish. It has become slightly less painful now that I'm older, but I am still terrified every time I go in. I think that horrible first experience scarred me for life.
omlove omlove 9 years
Hey Liss and sporky, I went undiagnosed for my Endometriosis for 1 year!! My doctor just kept saying there was nothing wrong with me even though I had ended up at his clinic crying coz I was in sooooo much pain. Finally I switched doctors. Now I realise I should have done that earlier because it had got really BAD and I was in extreme pain throughout the month. Liss am happy for you, good that u switched doctors.
plasticapple plasticapple 9 years
My first experience was when I was about 17, with a OLDER THAN DIRT male Dr. It was horrifying. But then a few years later when I got pregnant and had to have someone looking in there on a regular basis it became much less scary. Now it's no big deal for me. :) I personally like going to Planned Parenthood (the one in my area is great!) I feel comfortable and like I won't be judged. I also feel like I'll get honest answers about certain topics. I know not all PP centers aren't the same, but I really like mine. If you have one, it might be worth it check it out. :)
lightheaded lightheaded 9 years
Some of my friends still haven't gone to the gyno for their annual out of fear... well into their 20s... Scary to think that some people don't take care of themselves at all! Every woman needs to go, so no worries!
Greggie Greggie 9 years
I beg women not to say "Don't worry, it doesn't hurt!" It makes those of us who do have pain with every exam feel like freaks, and even more selfconscious (I spelled that wrong didn't I?) about that whole thing. It can hurt, it can hurt a lot. And pain doesn't mean you're overreacting, or you're silly, or anything like that. It's normal. It's something to address with your doctor to see if there's a physical reason for it, but it doesn't mean there's something actually wrong with you. And if your doctor poopoos the idea and claims it just shouldn't hurt and you need to lighten up/relax, it's time to get a new doctor.
xoxoxx xoxoxx 9 years
Wow Spork and Liss, your situations sort of remind me of what happened to me...I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis this year, and my first doctor was really pleasant and helpful. She left my hospital though, and I had to go to a new doctor at a new hospital, and they were horrible. They kept saying it was impossible for me to be in as much pain as I was with such a small curvature in my spine, and all they did was prescribe me with 600 mg of ibuprofen - that's what my last doctor did! They even laughed at me when I told them about my pain...I didn't go in for my next appointment. I'd rather be in pain than deal with those people. Back on awkward as my first pap was, it was horrendously pleasant. My doc - the one that tuned in about my scoliosis - was as gentle as she could be, and was really sweet, personable, and professional!
Sporky Sporky 9 years
Thanks Liss, I feel like I've gotten my life back. It's an option that isn't for everyone, it's very drastic, but I decided a long time ago I didn't want to give birth to children but I might adopt someday. Anyway, living without debilitating pain for the first time in 25+ years is heaven. Also, before the surgery I bled like a stuck pig ALL the time, so I went out and bought new undies and new clothes to celebrate, knowing I wouldn't ruin them ever again! :)
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
My bad experiences came from primarily military doctors, so there you have it. When I told the last one to give me an exam about my c-section blah blah blah, her first comment upon trying to crank the device open one more click was "Wow, you did have a c-section didn't you?!" Yeah. Thanks. That felt super.
Liss1 Liss1 9 years
Its awful isn't it Sporky? It's like you are lying to them. Why would i lie about having cramps everyday? it's not fun. For some stupid reason i put up with her for a couple of years. I just hope because i kept putting it off that i don't regret it. I am sorry you had to have a hysterectomy. I hope that gave you relief and you are feeling better now.
Sporky Sporky 9 years
Liss, glad to hear you switched doctors. I had my hysterectomy because of severe, debilitating endometriosis. I can't tell you how many doctors told me (before I met my current one, who performed the surgery) my pain was "in my head".
Liss1 Liss1 9 years
I love my doctor. She is great and makes me feel comfortable. My old doctor was awful! I kept telling her that i had cramps everyday of the month and she kept telling me i shouldn't have cramps at all because i was on the pill. We i did so obviously something was wrong and she wouldn't listen to me. So i changed doctors and my new one was very helpful and did a laparoscopy (sp?) and it turns out i have endometriosis. Good thing i changed doctors. If i had let it go much longer i could have had more problems and hopefully won't effect my chances of having a baby.
Sporky Sporky 9 years
I just had a hysterectomy. I'm SOOOO over it!
MarieLouise MarieLouise 9 years
My first exam experience was horrible. The actual exam didn't hurt - but I had to endure 4 exams within 1 year because none of the doctors (I was on campus at the time), were able to get a good enough sample to make the test conclusive. Finally the 4th Dr. said that I had a posterior uterus (?? and sorry for the TMO), and was able to get it right. Other than that, I've only had 1 somewhat painful experience because the Dr. I went to told me she didn't believe in using lube or warm water to insert the device because she thought it would tamper with results. My only advice would be to demand lube or warm water, and if they deny you, go to another dr.
ella1978 ella1978 9 years
I love my doctor. She's 35, knows her stuff and remembers all her patients. I think that's the best part, feeling confident in the person doing the exam. I recommend going thru a few doctors if you haven't found one you love yet.
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 9 years
My 1st exam was a perfect experience. I was getting tested for STDs and so my exam just followed because I had just become active with a man. I did it at my Universities Health Center, and since my school is medical based anyway I figured they would know what they are doing. The lady talked me through it and made it a pleasant experience seeing that it was my first. She even said I had a pretty cervix.... So ladies do not have fear of it. It doesn't hurt and you pretty much covered up. You are not spread eagle on a table being poked. I felt a whole lot better about myself and my health after I got my results from.
skigurl skigurl 9 years
it doesn't really bother me i've had 3 different doctors give me an exam (2 at university clinics and my one female family doctor) and i'm okay with it the first time i was freaking out but now i'm fine...i don't look forward to it but i don't dread it i mean, they do that all day every day...there's nothing they haven't seen
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
How about taking a valium before hand? I'm one of the extreme-anxiety girls.
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