By Jennifer Nevels, NMD —
Your first wellness exam will consist of a conversation with the doctor about your health as well as a physical exam. It is common to discuss issues regarding your menstrual cycle, acne, mood, and sexual history at your appointment, but your time with your doctor can also be used to share any concerns or questions you may have about your body. It is common to have your first exam around age 13 to 15 years old for a regular physical. At this age the doctor will check your height, weight, blood pressure, listen to your heart, lungs and examine the thyroid.
Around age 21, it is time to start getting breast and pelvic exams as well as a pap test. The breast portion of the exam involves the doctor feeling one breast at a time, checking for any lumps. This is also a time where the doctor will teach you how to do breast exams on your own. The first part of the pelvic exam consists of an inspection of the vulva (the outer area and entrance to the vagina). The second part includes a check on the internal organs, the uterus and ovaries, with a gloved hand. The doctor will place one gloved finger into the vagina and the other hand will press on the lower abdomen from the outside during this time. The pap test is sample of cervical cells that is taken by the doctor. It is done using a speculum, which is a tool that is inserted into the vagina. It is opened slightly for the doctor to examine the vaginal tissue, cervix and retrieve tissue using a small soft brush. The importance of the pap test is to check the cervix for any cancerous cells.
If you are sexually active, regardless of age, your doctor may recommend that you have tests done for certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STI tests for teens may be done through urine, blood or at the time of the pap test. Your conversation should also include options for birth control if you are sexually active and safe sex practices.
Although, it is normal to be nervous for your first visit with the gynecologist, it is a good opportunity to use this time to better understand your body. It is important to ask questions and feel comfortable with your doctor to discuss anything that may be concerning to you including diet, weight, relationships, anxiety and/or depression.