Your OB-GYN appointment doesn't have to be a source of anxiety. Follow a few simple steps for a less stressful visit.
Does the thought of your yearly well-woman appointment stress you out? Feeling anxious about your gynecology appointment is normal. But by doing your research and coming prepared, you can make the process easier.
Taking the stress away
“Your yearly OB-GYN appointment can range from a simple pelvic exam to a more comprehensive visit that includes a Pap smear,” says Richard Greco Jr., OB-GYN at Geisinger Saint Luke’s Women’s Health in Orwigsburg.
It does more than just give you a snapshot of your overall health. Your annual visit also helps detect cervical and other gynecologic cancers in their earliest stages when they’re easiest to treat.
This critical appointment might not be your favorite, but it may be one of your most important.
If you’d like to make the process more pleasant, consider these tips.
Find a provider you're comfortable with
Your gynecology exam is personal. That’s why finding the right provider matters. Before you choose one, do your research to find the right fit.
- Know what your insurance covers. To avoid unexpected bills, look for an in-network provider.
- Ask for recommendations. Word-of-mouth can deliver powerful results. Chat with friends and family to get insight into providers they know and trust.
- Browse reviews online. Want to know what others have to say about a provider? Just read the reviews. “Honest information about an OB-GYN’s bedside manner and approach to care can help you decide if they’re right for you,” says Dr. Greco.
- Schedule a consultation. If possible, ask if you can schedule a consultation to meet the provider. Use this time to inquire about their background and approach to care. It’s also a good opportunity to communicate your wishes and preferences.
Write out your questions
Planning what you’d like to discuss beforehand is a great way to prepare. And it means you won’t forget to bring anything up.
To get started, sit down with a pen and paper (or start a note in your phone) and brainstorm everything you want to ask. “We want you to ask questions and get as much information as possible,” Dr. Greco says.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Your provider has heard it all, so ask away. They’ll be happy to answer your questions and give you the guidance you need.
Address concerns in advance
If you’re stressed about your appointment, let your provider know. Also tell them if you’re dealing with specific symptoms, dryness or pain. Would you prefer your provider explain every step throughout the process? Or would you rather be distracted? Tell them.
They can work with you to find ways to lessen your symptoms and make you more relaxed. And they may suggest products to make the pelvic exam more comfortable, like a lubricant.
Get into a comfortable position
Has your women’s health provider ever asked you to scoot down before they start your exam? It turns out there’s a reason. “When you slide your body farther down the exam table, it relaxes your pelvic muscles,” says Dr. Greco. “That can make the process a little more comfortable.”
To keep your feet toasty in the stirrups, consider wearing socks. And if you’d prefer your speculum at a higher temperature, ask your provider if they can warm it up.
Distractions are OK
Once you’ve relaxed your body, use a distraction or two to calm your mind. Looking for inspiration? Consider these suggestions:
- Make small talk with your provider
- Watch or listen to something on your phone or tablet
- Do deep breathing exercises
Don't put off your exam
If you do feel anxious about getting a pelvic exam or Pap smear done, it’s fine. The important thing is not to delay your annual visit.
Start by scheduling your exam with a provider you trust. They’ll work around your needs to help you feel as comfortable as possible.