A visit to the gynaecologist isn’t usually a highlight for anyone, but it is part of every woman’s journey through life – and your sexual health is extremely important. 

A gynaecologist is a doctor who is a specialist in the field of everything that has to do with your reproductive system: your uterus, ovaries, vagina, your periods and general sexual health. Gynaecologists also monitor pregnancies and can deliver babies.

Unless you are pregnant, are sexually active, have problems with your periods, breast issues, or may have a sexually transmitted infection, most women don’t see a gynaecologist until they are in their early twenties. A gynaecologist can give advice on contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases as well as general advice on how your body works.

Often these functions can be performed by clinic sisters, and it is usually only if there is a problem that very young women are referred to a gynaecologist.

Gynaecologists can be in private practice (have their own rooms/surgeries) or they can be attached to a state or private hospital.

As with many things you have not done before, it is normal to feel nervous if you are not sure what to expect. Remember that you can ask a friend or a relative to accompany you if that will make things easier for you. Remember that while your visit to a gynaecologist may be difficult for you and you may feel shy or embarrassed, the staff working here deal with this every day – it is their job. They are there to help you, not to pass judgement on you in any way.

Make an appointment for when you are not having your period, and do not use any powders or creams, or have sex for two days in preparation for your visit to the gynaecologist.

Here are some of the things that will happen during your first visit to a gynaecologist.

  1. She (or he) will begin by asking you questions on your medical history, when you had your last period, whether you have menstrual problems, whether you are sexually active, and whether you use contraception of any kind. Be honest with the gynaecologist. Your visit is confidential, unless there is a medical crisis of some sort.
  2. You may be asked to go to the toilet and pee in a cup if the doctor wants to do a urine test. The doctor might also weigh you.
  3. She will then ask you to undress in a private cubicle, and you must put on a gown that is provided. You will never have to take off the gown completely during the examination, as the doctor will only expose the area that she is examining.
  4. You will be asked to lie on an examination table, and she will check your blood pressure, check your heart rate, thyroid gland and your lungs.
  5. Then there will be a breast check to see if there might be any lumps or painful areas or abnormalities of any kind. 
  6. There will be an external genital examination – that is the area around your vagina, which is called the vulva.
  7. Then the gynaecologist will do an internal examination, called a pelvic examination. She might use a small instrument called a speculum to widen the opening of your vagina so that she can see your cervix, which is between the uterus and the vagina. Then she will place two fingers into your vagina to feel if there are any growths or problems with your ovaries or your uterus. This might be slightly uncomfortable but should not hurt.
  8. If you have had problems, such as heavy periods, she might want to do a Pap smear. The speculum is inserted into your vagina, and the gynaecologist will get some cells from the cervix. These cells will be sent off to a laboratory for testing to see if there are any abnormalities. This is not comfortable but shouldn’t really hurt. 
  9. Then she will talk to you about any concerns she may have, or any problems she has found, and give you information and advice on what you should do, or which follow-up appointments you should make. She could also give you a prescription for any medication you may need, based on the examination.
  10. Then you are free to get dressed and go home.
  11. A few days later you should receive the results of the Pap smear.

And then, the second time around you will know what to expect, and it will definitely be easier.

Tell us: What other advice do you have for first-time gynae visits?

You can read about being pregnant here