So, it's that dreaded time of year again — time for your annual gynecologist appointment. The gyno can take the phrase "poking and prodding" to a whole new level, but it's important to go every year whether you want to or not (you probably don't). Not only is it important to make sure you're healthy, but it's also important to go to the gyno when you're done having children to ensure you're using the best option of birth control.
Let's start with the basics. Your yearly gynecologist appointment will include a pelvic and breast exam, and depending on your age, a mammogram. During the pelvic exam, your gynecologist will inspect your cervix and take a Pap smear to check for any potentially cancerous cells. Your doctor can also asses for many disorders during an external exam, and can conduct tests with blood and tissue cultures if needed. (via WebMD)
During the breast exam, your doctor will inspect your breasts, searching for any abnormalities. You can also conduct breast exams yourself, and should do so about every month. Learn how to perform a self breast exam here. The American Cancer Society recommends that once a woman turns 40, mammograms should be performed every one to three years if results are consistently negative. A mammogram is an x-ray of your breast that visualizes breast tissue for any cancerous changes.
>>Read more: 5 Tests To Have Done After 40
It's important to schedule your gyno appointment when you know you won't be on your period, as this could lead to difficulty for your doctor and painfulness for you during the exam. You also should not douche or have sex 24 hours before your appointment for the same reasons. Usually you might experience a little discomfort during a pelvic exam, but no pain to be afraid of. Plus, the benefits of going to the gynecologist heavily outweigh the risk of pain or discomfort.
Apart from pain and discomfort, many women avoid going to the gynecologist because they are embarrassed or feel uncomfortable answering the personal questions from their gyno. It's important to choose a doctor who you're comfortable around. Being honest with your doctor is necessary for optimal health, and chances are you won't be entirely truthful with your doctor if you don't feel comfortable with him or her. Don't be afraid to tell the truth; gynecologists see hundreds of patients and have likely heard it all.
Doctors can take a smear to detect most STIs and STDs, but don't be afraid to ask for a urine test to check for more "silent" STDs like chlamydia. If you have any unusual discharge or lesions, be sure to ask your doctor about it to see if any further testing is needed.
All the above is important for going to the gynecologist, but it is especially important to go to the gyno if you and your partner are finished expanding your family by having kids. It will give you the opportunity to discuss the best birth control options for yourself and your partner, whether it be a short-term option like a pill, patch, ring or shot, or long-term option like an IUD, tubal ligation, tubal implants or vasectomy (the male option). If you're over the age of 35, birth control pills, patches and rings are not recommended, and visiting your gyno will give you a great opportunity to discuss you further options. (via Web MD) Read up on all types of birth control options here.
All in all, going to the gynecologist takes at maximum only a few hours out of your year and can save your life!