Admit it: You're tempted to skip your OB-GYN appointment this year. Nobody relishes being poked and prodded in sensitive spots, even in the name of preventive medicine. But you need your annual visit to be sure you're healthy down there (and to get a clinical breast exam), whether you're planning to have a baby or entering menopause.
We're not asking you to jump for joy at the thought of a pelvic examjust to read the info we've gathered here, so it'll all go more smoothly.
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When to go
On days your OB-GYN isn't on call to deliver babies. First thing in the a.m. or after lunch to avoid a lengthy wait. Midcycle, when breasts aren't tender.
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What to bring
A list of your Qs for the doc. The date of your last period. Socks, so you'll feel less exposed, advises Lissa Rankin, MD, an OB-GYN and author of What's Up Down There?: Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. "They're cozy, and they provide an illusion of control when you're waiting half-naked for 30 minutes!" A panty liner in case of discharge or spotting. That gossip magazine you never have time to read. (You deserve a little distraction.)
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The big don'ts
Don't have sex the night before a Pap test. Semen in the vagina can affect the sample. Also, tiny abrasions on the cervix (from intercourse or a vibrator) can cause inflammation, which can lead to an abnormal result, and you may have to be retested.
Avoid bubble baths, too, which can lead to dryness and irritation that can make the test uncomfortable.
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Why your doc is so chatty
Ever wonder why your gyno becomes a motormouth as you slide down the table? It's because she wants you to talk, says Katharine O'Connell White, MD, MPH, assistant professor of OB-GYN, Tufts University School of Medicine.
"If you're talking, you're breathing, and breathing is the number-one way to help you relax during the exam. Holding your breath makes it more uncomfortable." Aha!
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Must I pee in the cup?
Yes, even if you're not pregnant, says Jennifer Wider, MD, author of The New Mom's Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Body, Your Health, Your Sanity and Your Sex Life After Having a Baby.
"It can screen for urinary tract infections, which are often asymptomatic," she says. "We also make sure there's no blood in the urine, which can be a sign of urinary, kidney, or other problems."
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