7 Things You Should Always Discuss with Your Gynecologist
Today’s average gynecologist is far more than a character in a white lab coat, who performs routine pelvic exams and leaves. Today’s gynecologists are health professionals who understand the importance of building trusting relationships with their patients. They are sensitive to the fact that their patients may be embarrassed about discussing such private matters as menstrual cycles, sexual activity and contraception. As a result, today’s gynecologists go out of their way to make their patients feel comfortable when consulting with them about gynaecological issues. If you are new to seeing a gynecologist or have not had one since your teenage years, you might be unsure as to what questions you should ask at your initial consultation. Below is an overview of some of the most common questions that arise when visiting a gynecologist for the first time.
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What is a Pap smear and why is it important?
A Pap smear is a simple test that your gynecologist can perform to check for changes in your cervix that may indicate an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Most gynecologists recommend that their patients have a Pap smear once a year. In some cases, if you have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, a Pap smear may need to be performed more frequently. Cervical cancer is very treatable if it is discovered in its early stages; hence, it is important to get a Pap smear once every year to make sure that you do not have any precancerous changes in your cervix. Most gynecologists perform a Pap smear while you are lying down on the examination table. You might feel a little bit of discomfort when the doctor is collecting the sample, but overall, the procedure is quite quick and not very painful. Your doctor may also use an automated Pap smear machine, which can easily collect the sample.
Are there any tests that can determine if I am at risk for developing cancer?
Many women are unaware that gynecologists can order certain blood tests that can indicate if you have an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or if you are over the age of 35, your gynecologist may recommend taking a blood test once every year to determine if your blood has the proteins that are associated with a higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. If you have a family history of cervical or endometrial (uterine) cancer, your gynecologist may recommend taking a Pap smear every three months. If you have a genetic predisposition for developing certain types of cancers, your gynecologist may also recommend taking certain medications that can help to reduce the risk of contracting certain cancers.
Can the doctor perform a pelvic exam now, while I am still standing?
Many patients are shocked when their gynecologist suggests performing a pelvic exam while they are still standing. There are two common reasons why your gynecologist might suggest that you perform a pelvic exam while standing: Firstly, if you are not regular with your Pap smear testing, or if you have not had a Pap smear in over five years, your gynecologist will probably want to perform a Pap smear while you are standing up. Secondly, your gynecologist may suggest performing a pelvic exam while you are standing up if you experience any pain when lying down on the examination table. This is because it is easier for patients who experience discomfort when lying down to stand for a pelvic exam when compared to lying down.
Why do I need to go on birth control?
If you have been diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), your gynecologist might recommend that you take birth control to regulate your menstrual cycle and manage your hormone levels. If you are taking certain medications that put you at risk of contracting blood clots, your gynecologist might suggest that you take birth control pills to reduce your risk of developing blood clots. If you have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, your gynecologist might recommend that you go on a course of antibiotics. Your gynecologist might also suggest that you go on birth control pills to prevent you from contracting additional STDs.
What are my options for birth control?
There are many different types of birth control, such as the birth control pill, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive patches or vaginal rings. Your gynecologist will recommend the type of birth control that is best suited to your lifestyle and medical history. Your gynecologist will also explain how to use each type of birth control as well as their advantages and disadvantages. If your gynecologist prescribes you the birth control pill, he or she will examine your medical history to determine which type of birth control pill would be best suited for you. Some birth control pills do not contain any estrogen, while others contain a low dose of estrogen that helps regulate menstrual cycles.
Are there any changes I can make to increase my chances of becoming pregnant?
If you are trying to get pregnant, your gynecologist can help you determine when it would be best to attempt to conceive. Your gynecologist might suggest that you chart your menstrual cycles for approximately three months to determine your basal body temperature (BBT) and the best times for conception. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, your gynecologist might recommend performing certain diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your infertility. Some of the most common tests that your gynecologist might suggest include semen analysis, blood tests and hysterosalpingogram (HSG).
My husband and I would like to start trying to have a baby. When is the best time for fertility testing and what tests should be performed?
If you are actively trying to conceive, it is important to determine if there is a medical reason that you are having difficulty getting pregnant. Your gynecologist can perform certain blood tests and an HSG to determine if there is an underlying medical cause for your infertility. If there is no medical reason that you are having trouble conceiving, your doctor may recommend that you chart your BBT to determine the best time to attempt to conceive. If you do not conceive after six months of actively trying to conceive, your doctor may suggest that you undergo further testing to determine the cause of your infertility. If you have been diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance, your gynecologist might recommend that you take certain medication to help regulate your menstrual cycle.