Taking the Fear out of Going to the Gynecologist
Going to your annual well-women’s exam is a crucial part of taking care of your overall health. In fact, it is recommended by the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology that every woman should have an annual Pap test to screen for cervical cancer starting at age 21. At Women’s Health Connecticut we know that for some women, going to your annual appointment can cause stress and anxiety. To help take the fear out of going to the gynecologist, we spoke to Lydia Lormand, DO, FACOG, of Manchester OB-GYN Associates.
Why do women have a fear about going to the gynecologist?
I think women get anxious about going to the gynecologist because of the nature of the visit. Not only are we typically discussing personal and often sensitive topics, but there is often an exam that is perceived as invasive and uncomfortable. I also think that there is a tendency to promote fear around the first gynecology visit from peers and family members especially if someone in that circle had a negative experience in the past.
Are there ways women can mentally prepare before going to the gynecologist?
One way to help a woman ease the anxiety around a gynecology visit is for her to empower herself. Do some research, speak to friends and family about providers that they have seen and liked. Choose a provider who you think you would be comfortable with. Sometimes this can be choosing a provider who may be closer to your age or has similar interests as you. Women’s Health Connecticut providers have short bios online you can read to get a feel of who they are before meeting them.
How can women be more comfortable at the gynecologist?
I think developing a rapport with your provider is key. If it’s your first visit and you haven’t had that opportunity yet, advocate for yourself. If the exam is the most anxiety-provoking for you, make sure you discuss this with your provider. You can also ask, if it has not been offered, to meet and chat with your provider prior to getting undressed for an exam. As a provider, I want my patients to feel comfortable discussing their gynecological health and not dread yearly visits, to accomplish this goal we have to work together.
If a woman has experienced trauma in the past, how can you make the appointment more comfortable?
For all my new patients I always speak with you fully clothed first. We review your history and if it is your first exam, we discuss what that will entail. If you have experienced trauma, I make sure we keep the lines of communication open, there are ways we can modify exams to help you feel more comfortable and experience less discomfort. We will discuss what specifically would make you more comfortable in that setting and you always have the ability to say stop. We won’t do anything you are not comfortable with.
Should you shave before going to the gynecologist?
If that will make you more comfortable, you certainly can, but I think I can speak for most providers when I say that you don’t have to do that for us! Remember, it is biological to have hair down there, so we are used to seeing it.
What if you’re on your period?
For most visits, being on your period is a non-issue. If you need a pap smear and have a heavy flow it may be a little more difficult to get results and you may have to come back to repeat it. If you have any questions or concerns regarding being on your period for your visit you can always call the office and ask if you should reschedule or keep your appointment.
Can women meet their provider before an exam?
This isn’t typical practice; however, most providers will review your history with you and have a discussion about what the plan for the visit is prior to performing an exam. We will talk you through the exam, explaining each step as it is done. If you are especially anxious or concerned, we could use the first visit to review your history and discuss your goals of care and then have you return to the office another day for an exam.
At Women’s Health Connecticut, we want patients to know that they can speak to your provider about their concerns. There are often things providers can do to help mitigate concerns surrounding your gynecology visit. You can review our providers’ bios to find an ObGyn you love.