I don’t know many women who actually look forward to their annual gynecological exam, unless they’re a hypochondriac or something. For most women, the issue may be more emotional or mental than physical. There’s the anxiety about being totally naked except for the paper drape, the awkward silence while you’re being examined, or the awkward small talk your HCP tries to make while he examines you (dude, just do what you gotta do and get from down there), fear of speculum pain on insertion (had to be invented by a guy, right?), apprehension about whether or not you’re “normal”, and the dreaded wait for the test results to return.
As a future women’s health nurse practitioner and a woman, I’ve compiled a few quick tips to make your next GYN appt a little less taxing. Hope it helps. 🙂
- It’s best to schedule your appt a few days after your menstrual cycle ends. The blood cells from your cycle may distort the normal cells of the cervix, thus distorting the Pap smear. Also, hormonal fluctuations may change the look or feel of your breasts, which may skew your breast exam. You don’t want to go through a breast lump scare unnecessarily.
- Try your best to abstain from sexual intercourse (mainly penetration), for 24-48 hours prior to your appt. Sex can damage cervical cells and make them appear abnormal on a Pap smear. Semen or sperm cells can also alter the way a Pap smear looks under the microscope, which isn’t a good thing. Abnormal Pap smears means you would have to return to the office for a follow up Pap smear to confirm the abnormaility. Save yourself the trouble and find other ways to entertain yourself.
- Take the time to jot down any questions or concerns you may have before you arrive at your appointment. HCP often times only have a limited amount of time for each patient (usually about 20 minutes), so they may be a little crunched for time. By having your concerns already written out, you can really make the most of your visit and have a better chance of leaving satisfied.
- If at all possible, try to arrive to your appointment at least 15 minutes early. This will allow you to not feel rushed or flustered and you’ll have time to just sit and clear your mind to prepare for the experience. Reading a magazine, listening to music, or simply sitting quietly can lower your heart rate and have a calming effect on you.
These visits are both necessary and beneficial. Millions of women are having these tests done and are walking out alive. I promise you will, too. 🙂
Remember ladies, keep a healthy demeanor, both inside and out.