By Jennifer Arnhold, M.D., GYN, Embrace Women’s Health Clinic, Baxter
So you’ve scheduled an exam with your gynecologist. As the day approaches, your mind might be going wild with questions. What will they find? Will they judge my appearance? What if I’m too embarrassed?
A gynecologist’s purpose is to make sure you’re healthy, ease your fears and answer any questions you might have about your body. If you’re still nervous for the big day, take a look at these common questions to help put your mind at rest.
What if I’m nervous?
That’s OK! It’s normal to be nervous. Usually, the anxiety over the visit is worse than the visit itself. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns you might have with your gynecologist before the exam begins.
Can I bring someone with me?
You are always welcome to bring a companion. Just know that you’ll likely undress in front of this person, and depending on the issue, certain questions will be asked and honesty is important. We may also ask that person to step out during the exam.
Do I need to wax or shave?
There’s no need for you to wax or shave. Other than looking for visible lesions on the outside, we are not focused on your outward appearance. During the exam, we’re thinking clinically and medically, not cosmetically. We’re not judging your personal grooming habits.
What if I smell?
It’s actually better that you don’t try to disguise an odor because it could be important for a diagnosis. We also never recommend using products that are marketed to clean that area. They can be unhealthy because they kill off good bacteria that regulate the acidic pH. An acidic pH helps to self-clean and prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
What if I have my period?
As far as Pap smears and the exams go, it’s typically OK if you have your period. Historically, when we did the Pap smear on a slide with a fixative, red blood cells would obscure the cervical cells, but now we have liquid preps that wash those red blood cells away. However, if you have heavy bleeding or cramping and think an exam is going to be uncomfortable, then it’s OK to reschedule.
What if I leak urine or have discharge?
It’s actually important for us to know if there’s leakage or discharge because it could indicate an issue that we need to address. So don’t be embarrassed. In fact, depending on the situation, we might even ask you to cough or bear down to see if we can get you to leak.
Why do you have to use a speculum?
As much as a speculum might look like a medieval torture device, it’s extremely important for allowing us to look at your cervix. Due to pressure and musculature, your vagina is always closed, so using the speculum is the only way that we can check the health of your cervix and vaginal walls.
I’m afraid to talk about sensitive things.
About the Author: Jennifer Arnhold, M.D., enjoys spoiling her son, Ty, and poodle, Andy. Her hobbies include cooking, yoga and reading. She graduated from medical school in 2000 and performs gynecology and gynecological surgery at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. You can also see her for outpatient appointments at Embrace Women’s Health Clinic in Baxter.