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Nervous About GYN Exam

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I'm 14 years old....i suspect I'm not due for a gynocologist exam any time soon, but I've been reading about what would go on during one and i am very nervous. I don't think I could have a doctor do all of those things during the examination. Is this kind of examination optional? Do I just have to deal with it? Please answer as soon as possible.
Signed: Nervous About GYN Exam

Dear Nervous About GYN Exam,

 

It is recommended that you start gynecological exams, including pelvic exams, when you become sexually active or when you turn 21 – whichever comes first. Once you start your gyn exams, it is recommended that you receive one every year (unless otherwise directed by your gynecologist). You can read our answer to Do You Need Gyno Exams If You Are Not Sexually Active? for more information. Know that if a girl is dealing with missed or painful periods, unusual vaginal secretions, or other problems that may be associated with her reproductive health, she may need pelvic exam before 21years. Read Your Daughter’s First Gynecological Exam for more information.

While pelvic exams and Pap smears generally are not performed until 21 years of age, it can certainly be helpful for a teen between the ages of 13-15 to meet with a gynecologist for the first time. While pelvic exams are rarely required at this age, it can be helpful for a teen to establish a doctor-patient relationship with someone she feels comfortable with. This can also be an opportunity to get accurate information about puberty, body changes, and menstruation. Finally, it can be helpful for teens to have a chance to learn about STDs and contraceptives so they are well educated and can make the healthiest possible decisions when it comes to their sexual health.

Planned Parenthood does a great job outlining the details of a Pelvic Exam – what to expect and why they are recommended. TeenHealthFX appreciates that many teens can feel uncomfortable, nervous, or downright scared about the idea of a pelvic exam. The idea of someone examining such a personal, private part of the body can feel embarrassing to some people, and others may also worry about the physical discomfort. FX can appreciate your nervousness, but we want to remind you of the following things to help ease any distress you are feeling about the idea of gyn visits:

·         Unless you experience some kind of medical problem or become sexually active before you turn 21, you still have 7 years before you need to have your first pelvic exam. There can be a very big difference between a 14yo and a 21yo in terms of emotional development and personal growth – how you feel about the idea of a pelvic exam now may easily be very different than how you will feel about it 7 years from now.

·         You may experience some discomfort during your pelvic exam, but you should not feel pain. If anything does hurt during your exam, tell your doctor right away. Remember that a lot of times we can work things up in our heads to be much worse than they are in reality. So know that you should not be in any kind of physical pain during your exam.

·         The pelvic exam is not a lengthy one – this part of the exam will be over before you know it.  

·         Gynecologists have performed thousands of these kinds of exams on teens, the elderly and all ages in between. These exams are routine for these doctors and they have seen it all – so don’t worry about being judged or feeling like your doctor is going to see something he/she has never seen before.

·         Take some preventative measures to ensure you feel as relaxed as possible when the time comes for you to have your first pelvic exam. Decide whether you are more comfortable with a male or female gynecologist and pick a doctor who comes highly recommended and who you feel comfortable with. Educate yourself about what to expect so that you can feel mentally prepared. Remind yourself of the benefits of these exams so you can feel better about having them.

·         Think about what will help you relax during your pelvic exam. You can do deep breathing during the exam, chat with your doctor if that serves as a distraction, think about a nice memory during the exam to distract you, or ask your doctor if it would be okay for you to listen to music of your choice (you could bring an iPod or MP3 player for example) that helps you to relax.

As for whether these exams are “optional,” the fact is that nobody is going to force you to have these exams. Your parents may decide to take you while you are under their care, but the fact of the matter is that once you are an adult it will be up to you to schedule these appointments yearly – nobody is going to make you go. While it will ultimately be your decision whether to go or not, FX wants to stress that it is an extremely HEALTHY decision to have yearly gyn visits. These exams help to ensure that you stay healthy. They can detect problems with your external and internal reproductive organs early on – and treating medical problems is generally always easier when caught in the early stages. In addition, if you think you might ever want to have children, having gyn exams is definitely going to be helpful. In addition to making sure that you are healthy as you try to get pregnant, it can help prepare you for all that is involved with prenatal exams and childbirth.

FX thinks that it would be helpful for you to understand why gyn exams are so highly recommended. Think about the following benefits of gyn exams, and hopefully that will help to offset any concerns you have about them:

·         Breast exams can help detect any lumps, cysts, or other problem areas that may require further evaluation and treatment. The earlier these kinds of problems are detected, the better.

·         The external evaluation of the vulva (the external genitalia) ensures there are no sores, swelling, or other problems.

·         The internal examination allows the doctor to assess any problems with the size and/or position of the ovaries and uterus. The doctor can also examine the walls of the vagina and the cervix and perform screening tests, such as Pap smears and tests for STDs.

·         Pap smears are recommended soon after starting intercourse or at the age of 21 – whichever comes first. Pap smears can alert doctors to any abnormal cell changes, as well as cervical cancer. Regular pelvic exams and Pap smears allow most pre cancerous conditions to be detected and treated before cancer develops, preventing more invasive cancers from developing.

·         Your doctor can talk to you about certain vaccinations, such as Gardasil.

·         Your doctor can provide education about protecting yourself from unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STDs at whatever time you decide to become sexually active, and can help you make a decision about the best safer sex methods for you.

·         Your doctor can test, when necessary, for any STDs.

·         If there ever is any kind of medical problem you need to address, it can feel better to have a gynecologist in place who you already feel comfortable with and have a good doctor-patient relationship with rather than having to scramble to find someone who is totally unknown to you when you are in the middle of dealing with a problem. 

If you continue to feel really nervous about the idea of a gyn exam, as it gets closer to your needing one, talk about it with your doctor. Let him/her know how nervous you are feeling about it and ask for some additional suggestions of how to manage your anxiety so that your feelings do not get in the way of your having these very important exams performed. Most women who get their yearly gyn exams agree that the trouble these exams can save a person in terms of allowing for early detection and treatment of serious medical problems is well worth the few minutes of minor discomfort once a year.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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