It’s understandable to feel a little nervous before your first gynae visit, but the good news is that you don’t have to. To help put you at ease, here’s a handy guide to exactly what you can expect at your first check-up.
When should I start having regular gynae visits?
The female reproductive system is intricate and delicate, and sometimes things can go wrong. These are usually easily treatable if they’re detected early, which is why regular gynaecological check-ups or women’s wellness exams are so important.
Your annual gynae visit will help ensure that you’re in good reproductive health overall. Your doctor or nurse will also be able to advise you on contraceptive options and protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That means you should start seeing a gynae or going for women’s wellness exams when:
- You start having sex
- You suspect there may be something wrong, even if you aren’t yet sexually active – for example, unusual periods or lack of periods, unusual discharges, etc.
- You’re aged 21 or over (regardless of whether you’ve started having sex).
What should I expect at the appointment?
At your first appointment, your doctor, nurse or gynae will take a full medical history. This includes asking questions about your health, sexual activity, and anything else related to your reproductive wellbeing.
Once that’s complete, you’ll be asked to step into a separate room or area, get fully undressed, and put on a gown. A gynaecological appointment requires you to be naked, but you should never be fully exposed during the appointment (i.e, you should never be asked to remove the gown completely), and your gynae should only expose the areas s/he needs to, as s/he’s examining you.
Your gynae will perform the following medical checks:
- General check-up, which could include taking your blood pressure, conducting a urine test, weighing you, listening to your lungs and heart, feeling the glands under your neck and arms and in your groin area, and possibly a haemoglobin test, which requires a finger prick.
- HIV/STI screening, if you request it
- Breast exam, where your gynae feels your breasts for any lumps or abnormalities.
- Pelvic exam, where your gynae first checks the outside of your genital area, and then the inside with the help of a tool called a speculum. This opens up your vagina and enables your gynae to see your cervix. Finally, your gynae will use his or her fingers to reach into your vagina and conduct a brief internal exam.
- You’ll also have a pap smear, which takes just a few moments. Here’s a helpful article on exactly what to expect: Pap smear: what to expect at your first visit.
Once the examination is complete, you’ll get dressed and be on your way. Your doctor will let you know the results of your pap smear within a few days.
Where to go for your first gynae visit or women’s wellness appointment
If you don’t have a gynae yet, you can ask a trusted female relative or friend for a recommendation. You can also visit your most convenient Marie Stopes centre for affordable, trustworthy and caring treatment. Find out more about the women’s wellness check-ups offered at our centres across South Africa.