Most women dread going to the gynecologist, ranking a visit somewhere between a trip to the dentist and entertaining the mother-in-law. But it really shouldn’t be like that! There are several steps you can take to make the appointment better for yourself.
Here are my five top tips:
- Clean your bits but not to bits: We don't expect you to have a perfectly manicured, sweet-smelling garden down there. Don't stress about waxing; a simple shower is just fine. Avoid bubble baths and feminine scent products, as the suds can dry and irritate the skin, leading to an uncomfortable exam. Don't douche, and avoid yeast medications and spermicides for at least 24 hours before your visit, to ensure accurate pap results.
- Time it right: Visit your OB-GYN mid-cycle, when your breasts are less tender. Schedule either the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch to minimize your wait and your anxiety.
- Dress to undress: Save the fashion statements, and wear items you can remove easily! Bring or wear knee socks, because keeping your toes toasty in those stirrups will help you stay relaxed.
- Write your own "List You Can't Miss": Whether it's a notebook or your smartphone, jot down your questions and concerns. Then, ask them.
- Be straightforward and open: You might think that what you’re experiencing is gross or embarrassing, but we have heard it all. You’re not going to gross us out. Pain during intercourse, unusual bleeding, smelly or odd-colored discharge -- those things are so important and need to be addressed. So, if your doctor doesn't bring them up, then you need to bring them up.
Also, don’t just assume that if it doesn’t come with a prescription, it doesn’t matter. So many Americans are taking over-the-counter supplements, and a lot of them can interact with birth control. We need to know everything you’re taking to ensure the best possible outcomes.
I always say the gynecologist’s office is a judgment-free zone, or at least it should be. It’s important to be open and honest with us, so we can give you the best care possible. When it comes to your health, nothing is off limits.
- Dr. Jennifer Ashton