Few women look forward to an annual gyno appointment. Like flossing, shaving, and entertaining your mother-in-law, you see the doc because you have to. But that doesnt mean this crucial checkup should feel like torture. These five tricks will help you be prepared and feel less stressed.
Waiting is never fun. But waiting for an unpleasant event is even worse. And if you have a female gynecologist, “the wait might be longer because patients tend to open up more to women,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine and author of A Womans Guide to Sexual Health.
Wait your way
If you have to wait, use the time in an enjoyable way. “Bring something that relaxes you,” says Winnie King, MD, host of Lifetimes Speaking of Womens Health and an emergency-medicine physician in The Woodlands, Texas. “It can be a humorous book or calming music on an MP3 player. The goal is to avoid getting more stressed out as time passes.”
Whats the best-undressed gyno patient wearing this season? Knee socks. “Socks are the one thing you dont have to take off, and knee socks can help you keep warm if the exam room is cold,” Dr. Minkin says. Tuck a pair in your purse and forget the lace-up boots and the intricate body shaper. Wear comfortable clothing you can get out of easily. Also, if youre having a mammogram before or after your Pap test, “wear a top and skirt or pants,” Dr. King says. “That way you can remove just your top for the test.”
Many womenunderstandablyfixate on cleaning and grooming themselves before a gyno exam. No need to go overboard. “Too much cleaning, like douching, can negatively affect exams like the Pap test,” Dr. King says. The douche can wash away the cells your gyno needs to examine, so you may have to come in for another Pap. Instead, take your routine shower (using soap is fine) and avoid powders in the genital area. Theres also no need for waxing; your gynecologist checks down there to make sure youre healthy, not to judge your wax job.
To help your doc help youand to make sure you dont forget to bring up that nagging itchmake a list of your questions and concerns, current medications and supplements, and any new drug allergies or medical issues. And be clear about what you want from the exam. Do you want a diagnosis? Simple info? Or, if youre experiencing a difficult health issue, do you just want to know that someone is on your side? Its your job to set the agenda.
Whether its strange smells, weird gastro symptoms, or sex issues, getting them out in the open is likely to ease your mind. And rest assured that your gyno has heard it all before. So, you want to know about vaginal versus clitoral orgasms? How perimenopause might affect your libido? Where your G-spot is? Why your husband likes to do that? “Its absolutely appropriate to ask,” Dr. King says. “Some docs will feel comfortable answering the questions, and some will refer you to a sex therapist to address more-serious issues or concerns.”