Whether it’s your first gynecologist visit or your fiftieth, there’s one universal truth — no one enjoys going to the doctor. And no one really talks about it, either. But feeling comfortable and empowered in your relationship with your doctor means that you should feel comfortable and empowered asking questions — and know what to expect.
What should you wear? How early should you arrive? What kinds of questions should you ask? While you may be nervous about your appointment with the gynecologist, it’s nothing to be scared of — and prepping for your GYN visit can help you feel more at ease. Here’s what to expect and how to prepare in advance so that you make the most of your OB-GYN appointment.
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your gyno at least once a year. However, some women need to go more often depending on their medical history and health concerns. If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you may go to the doctor even more frequently.
During your appointment, your gyno will ask about your medical history, sexual activity, and the date of your last period. They will also ask about any health concerns you may have.
Be prepared to talk about your menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge, and any other reproductive health concerns you may have had. Your gyno may also ask about your birth control options, sexual health, and offer you sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. OB/GYN appointments often include a gynecological exam — which may include a Pap test, breast exam, and pelvic exam.
Photo by Klaus Nielsen
It’s normal to feel a little anxious before your first gyno appointment. These first appointments are usually a little longer, and include taking your history, a urine test, and reviewing your birth control options.
First, you’ll fill out some paperwork. The nurse will then take your height, weight, and blood pressure. Next, the doctor will come in and talk to you about any medical issues or concerns you have.
Then, it’s time for the exam. The doctor will use a speculum to open up your vagina so they can see inside. They may also do an external genital exam. Based on your lifestyle, age, and exam results, your doctor will recommend the ideal time to follow up.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko
An appointment with a gynecologist is usually pretty routine. You’ll be asked to provide a urine sample, which will be tested for things like bacteria, pregnancy, and STDs. Then you’ll have a pelvic exam, during which the doctor will check your vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, and uterus for any abnormalities. You may also have a Pap smear at this time, which tests for cervical cancer.
These visits are usually pretty brief — generally between 15 and 20 minutes. However, because of their brevity, many people feel uncomfortable asking questions, forget what they were planning to ask, or feel uncomfortable bringing up their concerns. That’s fair — after all, it’s hard to keep your mental checklist straight during a speculum exam.
That’s why it can be really helpful to write your thoughts down before the exam so you can make sure you cover everything. Look for a practice that offers a direct care model and prioritizes accessibility, so you can follow up with your doctor if you do forget something.
If you need birth control, your doctor will ask you several questions to determine which method is the best for you. They’ll typically ask what other medications you’re taking, if you have plans to become pregnant within the next couple of years, and whether you’re sexually active.
Birth control is broadly split into hormonal and non-hormonal options. Depending on which one you choose and how long it stays effective, you may need to follow up sooner than one year. For example, you may need to check in once every six months for birth control pills or shots, and just once a year or less for an IUD.
If you have any questions or symptoms that worry you about your birth control, like irregular periods or mood swings, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor immediately.
Your OB/GYN will have standard questions about your health, but that doesn’t have to limit your conversation. You can ask about a variety of concerns, like:
Prepping for your gyn appointment shouldn’t be scary. When you know what to expect and you have a good relationship with your doctor, the exam room feels like a safe space. You may never look forward to your OB/GYN appointment, but you shouldn’t dread it, either.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Lisa Parsons, DO.
While we hope you’ve found this helpful, we can’t give you any medical advice without knowing your situation. Please reach out to a healthcare provider if you have specific questions or concerns. Nothing on this site is intended to diagnose or treat any illness, and no statement is intended or should be construed as medical or legal advice. Please utilize your best judgement and the support of your doctor when making any decisions about your health.