Visiting the gynecologist for the first time and getting a pap smear may be a terrifying thought for you and that’s perfectly normal. By taking a few moment to read about the exam, you can alleviate all of worry and misconceptions surrounding your visit to the gynecologist. 

Scheduling a pelvic exam shows that you take your health seriously. Regardless whether you are sexually active, pelvic exams are important because they are testing for cervical cancer while it is still curable. Plus you can have candid and confidential conversations with your doctor about any problems you are experiencing such as irregular periods, contraceptive methods, and/or sexually related matters.

You schedule your first pap smear at age 18. The examination should take place during the midst of your cycle to avoid bleeding during the exam. If it makes you feel more comfortable, bring your mother or other trusted friend to the appointment.

Before the exam:

  • Avoid having sexual intercourse two days prior to the exam
  • Avoid using a vaginal douche
  • Avoid inserting tampons or anything else inside your vagina
  • Think of questions you would like answered during the exam
  • Find out about your family’s health history (i.e. – previous instances of cervical, PCOS or breast cancer)

At the exam:

  • Let your provider know this is your first exam
  • Ask questions, lots of them, especially to help you feel comfortable with the procedure
  • Alert your family health history

Your first exam will take place in a private room on an examination bed. The doctor will start be examining your heart, lungs and abdomen. Afterwards, you will asked to place your feet in stir-ups to make the examination easier and faster. The doctor will begin by examining your external genitalia. Next the doctor will use a tool called a speculum to hold open the walls of your vagina. You will feel pressure when the speculum is inserted but let your provider know if it is painful so the settings can be adjusted. Taking deep breaths to help you relax can also make the process easier.  Then the doctor will take a few cells from inside the cervix to be sent to a lab for analysis. During this time the doctor will also a secondary exam called a bimanual expansion (meaning with both hands) to detect any growths, swellings, or other abnormalities in the pelvic region.

Once the exam is concluded you can ask your doctor any additional questions before you leave. Generally within 48 hours, you can expect to get the results from your exam. It is recommended that a woman have a pap smear every year if they are sexually active or every three years if they are abstinent. If you have any questions in the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.