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Annual exams and well-woman visits


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A well-woman visit is a chance for you to talk with your ob/gyn about your lifestyle and any health concerns. 

Your doctor will also do a physical exam of your pelvis and breasts and ask about your family history. This will help your doctor keep you as healthy as possible and find any potential complications before they become larger issues. 

Your doctor will also check your reproductive health to see if everything is in line with your current and future plans. 

Your ob/gyn is there to give you care throughout your entire life, from your childbearing years through menopause (when a woman's menstrual cycle stops as part of the natural aging process) and post menopause (after menopause).



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  • It is recommended to visit your ob/gyn once a year. It is important to form a partnership with your doctor to help you stay as healthy as possible and prevent problems throughout all stages of your life. 

    Even if you don't need a pelvic exam, your doctor will talk with you about sex, birth control, pregnancy, menopause, or whatever challenges you're facing. 

  • An ob/gyn or other health care provider does a pelvic exam to check your pelvic organs. This includes your outer genitals and internal organs such as your: 

    • Vagina
    • Uterus (womb)
    • Cervix (lower part of the uterus)
  • A pelvic exam only takes a few minutes. You undress from the waist down and put on a gown or cover up with a sheet. Then you lie down on the table with your legs raised in stirrups. 

    There are three parts to the exam: 

    • Checking the vulva
    • Checking the vagina and cervix 
    • Checking the internal organs

    To check your vagina and cervix, your doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina to help keep it open during the exam. Your doctor will also do a Pap smear if you're due for one. 

    After removing the speculum, your doctor will use a gloved hand to check your internal organs. This allows your doctor to feel your internal organs, such as the uterus and ovaries.

    If you have a greater chance of getting cancer or having other health problems, your doctor may do a rectovaginal exam. With this kind of exam, your doctor will put one gloved finger into your vagina and another into your anus.  

  • The first time it can feel strange and there may be minor discomfort, but it shouldn't hurt. If you do feel pain, tell your doctor right away so they can make the exam more comfortable. 

  • Benefits of this exam include: 

    • A better understanding of your body
    • Reassurance about your sexual and reproductive health
    • Possible early detection of medical conditions, such as infections or cancer
    • Detection of other problems, such as changes to skin in your pelvic area
  • There is little chance something will go wrong with these types of exams. Some women have fear, anxiety or embarrassment about these exams. If you have concerns, talk with your doctor beforehand.

  • In addition to your doctor, a chaperone may be in the room. The chaperone is usually a member of your health care team, such as a nurse or medical assistant. If a chaperone isn't in the exam room and you would like one, you can ask for one. 

    If you don't want a chaperone, be sure to let your doctor know. If you would like a family member, partner or friend there, bring them with you to the appointment and let your doctor know if you would like them to stay.