5 Things To Know Before Your Gynecology Exam

Hi, I’m Doctor Rich — a board-certified urogynecologist and passionate women’s healthcare advocate. Today we’re going to talk about the five things you need to know before your gynecology exam. And make sure you stick around for the answer to the often-asked question: Do I shave, wax, or go “au naturel?”

Don’t have time to read this post? Watch the video here instead!

1. Be a good steward of your own healthcare — and bring a copy of your records. 

We recently did a reaction video to Dr. Schmidt talking about the trouble with healthcare records. Unfortunately, the healthcare system isn’t run by Elon Musk! Different healthcare record systems don’t communicate with one another. And to get the most out of your visit, you’ll want to bring:

  • your last pap test,
  • mammogram,
  • and any operative notes that you’ve had from prior surgeries. 

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

This is your time!

This is your visit! 

This is your chance to get all of those questions answered. 

Sexual activity, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual preferences, acne, cramps, pain, all of those questions — this is the time to get them answered. 

3. What to expect. 

Unfortunately, healthcare is not the most functional system in the world. And the rule (rather, the exception) is that you may have a wait time before you can see the doctor. So make sure that you bring some reading material — or something to catch up on — to make the most of your time while you’re waiting. Doctors (and doctors’ offices) do the best they can to try to accommodate every patient, but sometimes the patient has a concern that goes beyond the time limits for their visit — and we want to make sure we give that patient the care that they need to get a resolution for their problem. Sometimes that gets doctors running behind. 

4. Can you get birth control without actually having a genital exam? 

The answer is yes.

Anybody who’s interested in contraception can have birth control prescribed by a doctor. Frankly, it should probably be over-the-counter. 

There are certainly some risks with taking birth control pills, and some circumstances can cause liver damage and blood clots — but there are many other over-the-counter meds that also have those risks. But (for the time being) this is a gatekeeper type of scenario where you have to go see the doctor to make sure that whichever contraceptive you choose is right for you. 

So you do not absolutely have to have a pelvic exam (or a Pap) in order to get a birth control prescription. However, if you’re sexually active, you probably should in order to screen for sexually transmitted diseases. Pap testing should be done periodically — but not until the age of twenty-one. 

5. A question that I often get asked: How do I need to prepare? 

Do I need to shave? Do I need to wax? Do I need to NOT do anything? 

[clip from Ken Jeong’s standup, joking about women preparing for a Pap smear]

We all love Ken Jeong. You can check out our “reacts” video here

In all seriousness, this is a judgment-free zone. You do you, boo! Don’t worry about what anybody else has to say about it. 

There’s no medical need to shave or wax before your GYN appointment. 

*Bonus tip: Is the Pap going to hurt? 

The answer is… it shouldn’t.

There are many different types of speculums. The two general categories are Graves (which is larger), and Pederson (which is smaller) — but there are many different iterations of each of those speculums. 

But you DO need to make sure you communicate with your doctor if this is your first Pap — or if you’ve had a prior Pap and it’s been painful. Make sure you communicate that so they can choose the right speculum. And make sure to tell your provider if it’s your first Pap — [jokingly] and make sure to ask your provider if it’s their first Pap. Hopefully not, but if it is… RUN!

But you really should have a rapport with your physician. Make sure they understand your concerns. And if that’s not there, you don’t need to run — but you need to find another provider. 

And on your way, make sure you “run” into that subscribe button — and we’ll see you in the next video.