It is a good rule of thumb for young women to establish care with a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. Your health care provider will ask you many questions about yourself and your family, and it’s very important to give open and honest answers to these questions so that your provider can give you the best care possible. Some of the more common concerns that young women often ask to address during their wellness visit are problems with their periods, questions about birth control, concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, sexuality, acne, weight gain, and depression or anxiety. Don’t ever be embarrassed by the questions you may ask or the answers you may give, and always remember that the information you share with your provider is very private and confidential.
Testing performed during a young woman’s wellness exam depends on age and if she is sexually active. The three basic parts of the wellness exam are the breast exam, the pelvic exam and the pap smear test. Young women who are over the age of 21 are encouraged to have a pelvic exam and pap smear testing.
During your breast exam, your provider will examine your breasts for things such as lumps or bumps. Of course, you will be encouraged to perform monthly self-breast exams. Your provider can teach you how to properly perform the exam and can provide you with a handout to refer back to.
During a pelvic exam, it’s always important to be relaxed. If you feel that you’d be less tense if a friend or family member was in the room with you, we encourage that. It will make your exam more comfortable if you are not tense. For the exam, your provider will examine your vulva, insert a speculum into the vagina, and feel your internal organs with a gloved hand. Typically, the abdomen is also examined at this time.
If your provider is performing pap smear testing, that will be done during the pelvic exam. The pap smear test is a very simple test that is done to check for any abnormal cells in the cervix. A small brush is inserted into the vagina, the cells are collected and then sent to a pathology lab to be studied. It is recommended that you not be on your period during your pap smear, but if your menstrual flow is light, it should not interfere with your results.