If you’ve just scheduled your first well woman exam, you may feel apprehensive about what you can expect during your initial visit with a gynecologist. Whether you’re a teen, a young adult, or even a little older, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous before this routine and highly beneficial appointment.
As women’s health experts who perform wellness exams virtually every day here at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, our experienced team wants you to know that these feelings are common and perfectly normal. We also want to reassure you that we do everything we can to ensure every well woman exam we provide is a positive and valuable experience.
Read on as Dr. Rania Ibrahim and Dr. Christina Parmar discuss what you can expect at your first well woman exam, and explain how this annual visit helps you stay on top of your health — both today and in the years to come.
As its name implies, a well woman exam isn’t a medical visit to assess and treat troublesome symptoms. It’s a specialized preventive physical designed to evaluate various aspects of your current health, answer your questions, and offer individualized guidance on how to prevent future health concerns.
Your initial well woman exam either evaluates or gives you space to discuss many aspects of your health and well-being, including:
According to guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, your first well woman visit should ideally occur between 13 and 17 years of age. During these early annual exams, you can get to know your gynecologist, learn about how to stay healthy, and understand what to expect at future well woman visits.
Even if you’re sexually active during adolescence, your first complete well woman exam — or one that includes a pelvic exam along with Pap smear and HPV testing — doesn’t typically start until you’re 21 years old.
Every well woman exam, including your first, consists of two main elements: An in-depth conversation about your health and well-being, and the physical exam itself.
Before the exam portion of your well woman visit we like to spend a significant amount of time getting to know you.
We begin by gathering a detailed medical history, including your general, gynecological, and mental health history. We may also ask you about key aspects of your family medical history, including any known history of chronic illness or cancer. Taken all together, this information helps us establish an invaluable “health baseline” that allows us to develop a fully customized preventive care plan as needed.
Although we will ask you specific questions about your periods and sexual activity, you’re in the driver’s seat here — everything you say is confidential, and nothing is off the table.
Your well woman exam is an opportune time to discuss menstrual cycle abnormalities, learn about your birth control options, discuss sexual orientation and gender identity feelings, and address any concerns you have about sex, including questions about painful intercourse and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
As a cornerstone of preventive care in women’s medicine, your well woman exam includes three fundamental evaluations:
First, we perform a basic physical exam. After we record your weight and height and measure your vitals (blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate), we examine your eyes, ears, lymph nodes, abdomen, and spine; listen to your heart and lungs; and test your reflexes.
We also perform standard urine testing to check for signs of anemia or high glucose levels. If you’re in your late teens or older, we may have you complete a fasting blood work test in a separate appointment to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
During your visit’s clinical breast exam portion, we check your breasts for visible signs of disease, such as dimpling, nipple inversion, an orange peel appearance, redness, or swelling. We also gently and systematically press all areas of breast tissue to check for tactile evidence of lumps or thickening.
You won’t begin having routine mammogram screenings to check for breast cancer until you’re 35 or 40 years old, depending on your family history and personal risk factors for the disease.
This component of your well woman exam assesses the visible health of your outer sexual parts (vulva and labia). It also helps us detect any problems with your inner sexual organs or your vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries.
Through the age of 20, your pelvic exam only includes a visual check of your outer sexual parts. Once you turn 21, your pelvic exam may also include a cervical cancer screening test called a Pap smear, a quick swab test that checks for abnormal cells on your cervix.
If you’re 25 or older, we may recommend an HPV test along with your Pap smear. An HPV test detects the presence of high-risk HPV, which is associated with a greater chance of developing cervical cancer.
When it comes to supporting and protecting your health today, tomorrow, and in the years to come, your annual well woman exam has you covered. Call or click online to schedule your next visit at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, today.