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What to Expect From an Ob-Gyn Visit

(continued)

What to Expect During Ob-Gyn Visits continued...

Then it's time for the physical exam. The nurse will take you into the exam room and ask you to undress completely. You will be given a gown that opens to the front, and a sheet to cover your lap. 

Your ob-gyn will probably start by asking you some general questions about your personal and family health history. A nurse or other health professional might stay in the room with you and the ob-gyn for the pelvic exam. 

The doctor will first examine the outside of your vagina, which includes the vulva area and vaginal opening, for abnormalities. The doctor will then examine your reproductive organs from the inside. While your knees are bent and your feet are in stirrups to keep them apart, the gynecologist will use a speculum -- a device that holds the vagina open -- to view the inside of your vagina and cervix (the opening to your uterus). You might feel some pressure during this exam, but it shouldn't be painful. Your ob-gyn will also examine the walls of the vagina and cervix. 

A Pap test is often done during the pelvic exam. Your ob-gyn will remove a sample of cells from your cervix using a small brush. Those cells will be sent to a lab and checked for cervical cancer and other abnormalities. 

If you are sexually active, the doctor might also test you for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV. To test for STDs, the ob-gyn will take a swab of tissue during the pelvic exam and/or check blood tests. 

Then, the ob-gyn will do an internal bimanual exam by placing one or two gloved fingers in your vagina and the other hand on top of the lower part of your abdomen, to feel your cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries from outside your body. Your doctor may also do a rectovaginal exam. 

Your ob-gyn should also do a breast exam to check for any lumps or other abnormalities.

Talking to Your Ob-Gyn

Use your annual ob-gyn appointment as an opportunity to ask questions. Even if your questions seem intimate or embarrassing, you can be sure that your doctor has heard them before. It's OK to ask about your periods, sex, or whatever you want to know about your reproductive health. 

Your ob-gyn should also ask you a lot of questions. These questions might get very personal, but your doctor needs to know the answers to care for you properly. Questions can deal with: 

  • Your period and any problems with it, such as missed or heavy periods
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Whether you're sexually active and how active you are
  • Sexual issues or problems
  • Any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) you've had or think you might have
  • Birth control methods
  • Vaccine history 

Remember that your ob-gyn is your partner in reproductive health. Carry on that partnership by making and keeping your annual appointments. In between visits, let your doctor know if you have any new problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on October 29, 2012
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