• Preparing for the Womens Wellness Visit

  • What are women’s wellness visits?

    Your wellness visit is a yearly visit, also called a gynecological exam, women’s annual exam, or pelvic exam. People of all gender identities, if they have a vagina, breasts or uterus, need to make time for this visit.

    This exam has three main parts: review of your sexual and medical history, a breast exam, and a pelvic exam. If you are sexually active, you should be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). All parts of the exam are vital to your health.

    A complete medical history tells the doctor how to assess your risk for different health issues. For example, if you have a family history of breast cancer you may need mammograms at an earlier age.

    Women ages 25 to 39 need to have a clinical breast exam. Even if you are young and have low risk of breast cancer, the doctor still needs to manually examine your breasts for abnormalities.

    Women 21 and older need pelvic exams and Pap tests. The Pap test includes examining the vagina and cervix, and it’s how your doctor checks for cervical cancer. During this exam, the doctor may also insert a swab to test for STIs like chlamydia. It is a quick and painless test, and every patient who is sexually active should have one.

    You can have an easier visit, one where you feel more comfortable, if you prepare for the visit in advance. The doctor will have questions about your medical and sexual history and any health problems you might be having now. You probably have questions about your health too. You should have the following information ready to ask and answer while you’re in the exam room:

    About Your Period

    • Date of your last period and how long your period typically lasts.
    • How often do you get your period? Is it consistent?
    • Do you bleed or spot between periods?

    About Your Medical History

    If you have medical issues, you should write these out when you’re not stressed or in a hurry (two things people often are at the doctor’s).

    • Dates of any major surgery or medical issues you have had.
    • Family history of cancer and what kinds of cancer.
    • Other family medical issues.
    • Medications, vitamins or supplements you take.
    • Do you currently have any medical concerns?
    • Have you noticed any vaginal discharge or smell?
    • Have you had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or would you like to know more about it?

    About Sex and Pregnancy

    • Do you think you might be pregnant?
    • Do you want to get pregnant? Would you like your doctor to give you advice about pregnancy?
    • Are you sexually active? (This refers to vaginal, anal and oral sex.)
    • Do you have sex with men, women or both?
    • Do you use birth control? What form(s) of birth control do you use? Are you happy with it? Would you like information about other forms?
    • Do you feel safe in your relationship? Would you like to talk with someone about your relationship?

    Other ways to prepare:

    • Pick a day for an appointment when you think you will not have your period.
    • Make a list of questions for the doctor or nurse. See suggestions above!
    • If you think you might have trouble asking questions, or you feel uncomfortable being alone, ask someone to go with you.
    • Bring something to write down what the doctor says so you won’t forget.