You have probably heard someone talking about a well-woman exam cracked with MCAT books and practice tests, perhaps an older female friend, female family member, or a friend. If you have never had a wellness woman exam and never tried preparing for exams, it might sound a little bit scary and ominous. But don’t worry, these are clinical examinations like any other performed during a doctor’s visit. Here is what to expect and how to prepare for the exam.
What exactly is a well-woman exam?
A well-woman exam, or a woman wellness examination, is a procedure normally conducted annually in which a gynecologist or OB doctor examines the overall wellness of the woman’s reproductive health.
What to expect during the well-woman examination?
As a first-timer, the wellness woman exam may be a bit scary and ominous at first because of the level of intimacy involved in the procedure. However, this should not deter you from having one because it helps monitor your reproductive health, especially in the early detection of cancers and the mitigation of sexually transmitted infections. There are three main parts of the examination:
- Questions about your personal life
The first step of the exam usually involves being asked a couple of questions. These questions are usually very personal, but it is important that you answer them as honestly as possible because it is for your benefit. All the information you provide is strictly confidential unless you are less than 18 years old because your parent or guardian will be informed of any serious exam results. The questions asked will inquire about your medical history, periods, lifestyle and eating habits, sexual activeness, mental health, and drug and alcohol usage.
- Physical Examination
The gynecologist will then move on to the physical examination. This consists of two parts: breast examination and pelvic exam. In the breast examination, you will be asked to sit or lie down, and then the OB nurse will visually and physically examine your breasts, with gloves, of course. The gynecologist will be checking for abnormalities in color, symmetry, inflammation, shrinkage, and nodes. If everything is okay, the OB will pass your breast examination. If any abnormalities are found, the gynecologist may perform a mammogram, a special type of X-ray for breasts to detect tumors.
The most ominous and scary part of the well-woman exam for a first-timer is the pelvic exam. However, it is nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. You may bring a friend along or a parent in the examination room if you are too scared. This part of the examination involves lying down and your legs being suspended using stirrups to facilitate access to the pelvic area. The gynecologist will then feel your external genitalia, including the vulva. He or she will then insert two fingers inside the vagina to feel and palpate for abnormalities and inflammations. A special device called a speculum might be used to expand your cervix for proper examination of the cervix and other internal organs.
The final part of the examination usually involves counseling and advice on how to improve reproductive health further. This is more so if you are sexually active.
How to prepare for the well-woman exam?
Shower and clean yourself. Most people are not confident if they feel they may stink or smell. The best way to mitigate this is by having a thorough shower before the exam.
Prepare to answer the questions asked about your medical history, sexual activity, and periods, among other information.
Have a friend or family friend come with you. This will help you overcome the fear that comes with the first time well-woman examination.
Calm yourself. The procedure is not as ominous as you may think, so try to relax before the exam.