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How to Prepare for Your Annual Well Woman Exam

While your annual well-woman exam may seem like just another task on your endless to-do list, you must make time for this doctor’s visit for many reasons.

You may be surprised to learn that a well-woman visit entails more than a pap smear (though that is an essential component). Think of this as a preventative measure. During the visit, your healthcare provider will check your breasts, ask questions about your menstrual cycle, and recommend what screenings you should get based on your personal and family medical history. This is critical because prevention and early detection of anything will provide the best outcomes. By attending your annual exam, you are advocating for your health.

Below, we will detail what a well-woman exam is, answer a few questions and help you prepare for your visit.

Do not hesitate to schedule an annual exam with your Genesis OBGYN provider and take charge of your health today.

What is a Well-Woman Exam?

A well-woman exam is an annual physical check-in that specifically deals with women’s health issues. It is in addition to a yearly physical and is usually completed by an OB/GYN. In addition to reviewing overall health, the well-woman exam looks at issues related to breast, cervical or ovarian cancer, as well as fertility or reproductive health.

During the exam, a nurse or doctor will most likely record your height and weight, ask about your daily habits and record any changes from your last visit. They will also perform a breast exam.

Previously, a pelvic exam, which typically included a pap smear, was recommended annually. However, updated recommendations mean you only need a pelvic exam every few years based on age and other risk factors unless you have abnormal discharge or other symptoms like itchiness, dryness or sores.

Some Common Questions You May Have Before Your Well-Woman Exam

You may have misconceptions about well-woman exams–what they are and are not, what will happen and how often to get one. Below are some common questions we have received:

What does a well-woman exam include?

Each well-woman visit depends on the patient’s age, prior medical history, and other factors. Because the well-woman exam focuses primarily on the health of your breasts, vagina, cervix, and uterus, your healthcare provider will ask questions about any changes in your menstrual cycle, contraceptive use, and any soreness in the breast or pelvis. If you are sexually active, you may take as sexually transmitted disease tests and provide a urine sample to determine pregnancy. 

The physical portion of the visit will include a breast exam and, if necessary, a pelvic exam. After the examination, your healthcare provider will counsel you on whether you need additional screenings, immunizations, or follow-up appointments.

Can I have a well-woman exam on your period?

Yes, you can get a well-woman exam while on your period. While it is best to schedule your exam when you are not on your period, if it catches you by surprise, just alert the office or your healthcare provider before the start of the exam. However, we recommend you make the best decision for yourself and your comfort.

How often should I have a well-woman exam?

Starting around age 21, you should have a well-woman exam once per year.

How to prepare for your well-woman exam

The best way to prepare for your exam is to note any changes to your body that have taken place since your last exam. Your healthcare provider will ask questions to help assess your current health and what, if any, follow-up tests, screenings or examinations you need.

Some of these questions may include:

  • Have you had any changes in your period? Such as irregular periods or spotting?
  • Are you sexually active?
  • Do you think you might be pregnant? Or are you trying to become pregnant?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you using any contraception?
  • Is sex ever painful?

It’s critical that you answer these questions truthfully and share any concerns you have with your healthcare provider, no matter how small you think you are. It is also helpful to know your medical history, including any familial history of breast, ovarian or cervical cancer. 

Lastly, if you are having a pelvic exam, avoid douching, engaging in sexual intercourse or inserting anything into the vagina prior to the exam. 

Do not forget to schedule your annual woman-wellness exam with your provider

The most important thing is to feel comfortable and open with your healthcare provider so that you will attend your annual visit and be honest with them. Your annual exam is for you, so contact your Genesis OBGYN provider and schedule your appointment today. We’ll recommend and provide compassionate healthcare services to support your physical and emotional well-being. Contact us to request an appointment today.

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