To maintain a good reproductive health, females need to visit a gynaecologist—a doctor who specializes in the female reproductive health—for an annual exam. Generally, women should start having annual visits at the age of 21 or as soon as they become sexually active. Older women aging between 30 and 64 should visit their gynae every other year. Other reasons why you may need to visit a specialist include treatment for irregular periods, vaginal infections, and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as seeking professional advice about contraceptive methods and for regular maternity check-ups.
During an exam, the gynaecologist asks about your menstrual cycle and sexual history, as well as physically examines your genitals and breasts. An experienced doctor with the likes of a Thomson gynaecologist in Singapore will help to alleviate worries that you may have as they are very experienced in handling gynae cases. Understandably, such visits can cause some discomfort, but keep in mind that regular gynaecological exam is of utmost importance for every woman’s reproductive health and, therefore, should not be skipped.
To lessen the anxiety and discomfort, it’s important to have a clear idea of what to expect during a gynaecological exam. Prepared with the right knowledge of what actually happens during an examination, women usually find that it can be a straightforward and health-assuring experience.
Preparing for a Gynaecological Examination
Before setting an appointment for a gynaecological exam, there are a few preparatory steps you should do:
• Make sure to schedule your appointment in between menstrual cycles—not during your period—as menstrual fluid can interfere with the exam and lab tests.
• Do not have an intercourse or insert anything into the vagina (tampons, menstrual cups, douches) for at least 24 hours prior the hospital visit. Anything inserted in the vagina can cause irritation to the vaginal tissue and affect the Pap test results.
• Prepare a list of questions and concerns you want to bring up to your gynaecologist before the scheduled test. Your gynae needs to know about any vaginal pain, bleeding, discharge, odour, or irregular bleeding you may be experiencing.
• Recall the exact date of your last period and how long your periods usually last as your gynaecologist will ask about it.
The Breast Examination
The purpose of this test is to check for any lumps or irregularities in your breast tissue. Your physician examines your breasts by making gentle presses in circular and linear motions. It should feel as if you’re having a massage and only lasts for a minute. If you feel any pain or discomfort while your doctor is performing the examination, make sure to let her know. She may also show you how to do a self breast exam, because it’s essential to constantly check for any irregularities between gynaecological visits. If you’re someone over the age of 35, your doctor may advice you to undergo mammogram test for breast cancer.
The Pelvic Examination
This part of gynaecology test requires the doctor to inspect the internal and external parts of the female genitalia. Before the examination starts, try to urinate as it may feel uncomfortable later on and may urge you to pee.
As the exam begins, you will be asked to lie down on the exam table with your feet on the footrests to keep your legs apart. A drape cloth will then be provided for lower body coverage. This exam can go more easily and quickly if you remain relaxed, and should be completed in five minutes.
Here’s what you can further expect during a pelvic examination:
1. The doctor checks the vulva (exterior genitalia) for any signs of irritation, sores, or infection.
2. A lubricated speculum—a thin metal device that looks like a duckbill—is inserted into the vagina. The speculum is kept close as it is inserted into the genitalia and then slowly opened to separate the vagina walls. This allows your gynaecologist to get a better view of the cervix and vaginal wall. With relaxed muscles, the speculum should only cause slight discomfort. But if anything feels painful, make sure the doctor knows.
3. Your gynae collects a sample of cervical cells by swiping the cervical mucus with cotton swab, a procedure called Pap smear. Pap smears are the procedure employed to help physicians detect presence of irregularities in the genitalia caused by vaginal infections, cervical cancer, and STIs.
4. The physician will examine the reproductive organs using her fingers. Wearing latex gloves, the doctor inserts one or two fingers into the vagina and presses your lower abdomen with her other hand. This procedure lets the doctor check the shape, size, and position of your uterus, which affects your fertility and the type of contraceptive method to be used. It also detects if there’s any tenderness or swelling in the reproductive organs, which can be a sign of pregnancy, cysts, or infection. Just like any other parts of your gynaecological exam, let your doctor know if you feel any pain.
5. Your doctor may also check your rectum for any abnormalities behind the vaginal wall, uterus, and rectum.
Once the physical examination is completed, you have the final opportunity to discuss any other additional concerns with your doctor. Your gynaecologist is a trustworthy source of information, especially about your health, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed to ask anything about your sexual and reproductive health. Singapore specialists follow strict confidentiality agreements, so you can be sure any information you share with them remains private. Annual gynaecological visits are vital to maintain optimal reproductive health.