Genesis Women’s Health Services, located in Victorville, California, wants you to feel comfortable at our office. We understand that going for a gynecological exam can be a little scary the first time and even a bit unnerving after several times. We hope this common list of FAQs will help answer some of your questions and put your mind at ease.
What Should I Expect & How to Prepare for My Yearly Gynecological Exam?
A yearly gynecological exam involves a quick physical exam, a breast exam, a pap test, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at your request or if we feel it may be necessary. It is important not to douche for at least two or three days before you see your appointment as it can lead to inaccurate results. You should also not have sexual intercourse within at least 24 hours before your exam.
At What Age Should Gynecological Exams Begin?
Generally, the first gynecological exam should be made between the ages of 13 – 16. Some circumstances can change the general rule; for example if the teenage girl is sexually active, then as soon as possible regardless of age. Birth control and sexually transmitted diseases are things we like to prepare teen girls for, in hopes of preventing teen pregnancy and STDs. Also, if a girl has pelvic pain or abnormal menstrual cycles, we recommend seeing them in the office at a younger age. It is not uncommon for a girl to begin her menstrual cycle by age 10.
What is a Pap Test & What Should I Expect?
A pap test, also known as a pap smear, tests the loose cells that are gently scraped from the opening of your cervix. The cells are collected using a swab (long q-tip.) The cells will then tested for abnormalities; however, not all abnormal pap tests mean you have cervical or vaginal cancer. The pap test can also identify abnormal hormone activity, as well as certain types of infections. Contrary to what you may have been told, a pap test does not hurt, although it may be mildly uncomfortable for some women. Most women express the pap test is embarrassing more than anything. The examination will generally be very quick.
What STDs Can I be Tested For During My Yearly Gynecology Exam?
If the doctor does not ask you about being tested for sexually transmitted diseases, don’t be embarrassed to ask. Most of the time, you will be asked if you wish to be tested for HIV. You can also be tested for the following: chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, Trichomas, HPV, syphilis, herpes, and syphilis. Most STDs are tested for using a urine sample or blood work; some, such as Trichomas, can be detected during a pap test.
What Are My Options Regarding Birth Control?
Birth control is a very personal choice; what one woman prefers, another may not. There are several choices available, starting with birth control pills, spermicides, condoms (which should always be worn to prevent STDs,) IUD, the patch, and shots. The options are numerous, and even include emergency contraception pills that you can take the morning after. For women who do not wish to have any more children, sterilization is the best option.
Should I be Alarmed if I Pass Blood Clots During My Menstrual Cycle?
It is important to keep in mind that your menstrual cycle is your uterus lining being shed. If the uterus lining is thicker during a particular month (the thickness can vary from month to month), then it is likely your period will be heavier, and it is not unusual to pass blood clots during heavy periods. You might also pass large blood clots when your period is normal for various reasons. If you are concerned, it is always best to call your doctor. Our goal is your health and can put your mind at ease.
What if I Need Surgery?
There are several types of gynecological procedures, starting with the minimally invasive laparoscopic ones to the invasive ones such as hysterectomies. If you have outpatient surgery, your gynecologist will send you home with instructions and a list of things that should cause concern, as well as instructions for going to the emergency room or calling the office. If you underwent general anesthesia, someone would need to stay with you for the first 24 hours.
With more invasive surgeries such as hysterectomies, you will be admitted to the hospital and will have nurses available to answer any questions or tend to any complications if they should arise.
What Causes Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
PMS is defined by the American College of Obstetrics as “The cyclic occurrence of symptoms that are sufficiently severe to interfere with some aspects of life, and that appear with consistent and predictable relationship to the menstrual.” Scientists do not know what exactly causes PMS, they believe it is caused by the inconsistent levels of hormones, including progesterone and estrogen, that occurs while the body prepares for menstruation.
What are the symptoms Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
There are several symptoms of PMS. The severity and number symptoms vary from woman to woman. Furthermore, the severity of the symptoms can change from month to month. Common PMS symptoms include headaches/backaches, breast tenderness, food cravings/overeating, irritability, bloating, moodiness, anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, tearfulness, trouble concentrating, depression, and there are several more symptoms of PMS. Not all women experience PMS, or they may have only one or two symptoms. For specific questions, contact your gynecologist. Our female physician understands the questions women may be going through.
What causes irregular menstrual cycles?
There are several things that can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, including, stress, illness, your weight (underweight or overweight), medications, some reproductive health conditions (Polycystic ovary syndrome), perimenopause, and menopause. It’s best to ask your gynecologists if you are experiencing irregular menstrual cycles.
Is it Safe to Have Sex While I Have My Period?
Yes, it is safe to have sex while you have your period. In fact, some women claim that having sex during their menstrual cycle relieves cramps, headaches, and irritability that as associated with their menstrual cycle. Having sex during your period is simply a matter of preference for both the woman and the man.
How Long Can Sperm Live in a Woman's Body?
Sperm can remain viable for usually five days. That extends the a woman’s fertile period, which is why you should always use protection if pregnancy is not your plan.
What do I do if I Forgot to Take a Birth Control Pill?
Take the pill as soon as you remember. If you forgot two pills, take two pills every day until you are caught up, and use an additional type of birth control for the rest of the pack.
Does hormone replacement therapy (HRT) cause breast cancer?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can improve several symptoms related to menopause. Recent results from the Women’s Health Initiative does suggest the possibly of an increased risk for breast cancer and additional serious health conditions. You should talk to your gynecologist about the risks, benefits, and alternative treatments before making a decision.
At What Age Does Perimenopause Usually Start?
Perimenopause can begin as early as a woman’s mid-thirties. Most women begin perimenopause in their mid 40’s to their early 50s. Every woman is different, and certain circumstances also play a role in the start of perimenopause, such as the age when menstruation started. If a woman started her period at the age of 10, she is more likely to enter the perimenopause stage earlier than a woman who started her period at 13.
Every woman should make the time to have their yearly examinations. Ask any questions you may have and talk about your concerns with your gynecologist at Genesis Women’s Health Services in Victorville, California. You may be surprised how many times your gynecologist answers the same questions and addresses the same concerns many women have. Don’t be shy, speak up with question regarding your well-being.