words by Dr Mare (she/her) @bookedwithdrmare
A visit to the gynecologist isn’t really anyone's idea of a great time, but just like going to the dentist or the DMV, you just have to do it. Whether it's your first time or hundredth appointment, the entire experience can be a little bit awkward — but it doesn't have to be! It takes time to shed the collective societal shame surrounding our sexual health and it's totally normal to be a little nervous about talking to a total stranger about vaginal discharge or sex during your period. But that doesn’t mean your trip to the gynecologist has to be a bad experience.
To help ease any white coat anxiety at your next doctor’s appointment, I’ve compiled a checklist that can help you prepare for a gynecology visit, plus some basic questions to ask as a starting point if (or when!) they pertain to you. As an OBGYN with a vagina (and my own OBGYN), I’ve heard it all, so don’t be afraid to just ask! You know your body best, so it’s better to be prepared and take preventative care then leave the appointment with more questions than answers.
Before You Get There
Track your period and symptoms. The one question we always ask is when you had your last period. Try to remember the first day of your last period (when your most recent period started), and if you notice any changes in color or other symptoms from what your normal is. There are a lot of free apps available to help track your, flow, mood, discharge and more, which can help you understand what’s normal for you. If your periods are irregular or you don't get periods anymore for whatever reason, make sure to let the doctor know.
Write down your questions or concerns. Anxiety makes it easy to lose your nerve or forget the questions you told yourself to remember, so save yourself the stress and just write everything down. Your notes app is a great place for this.
Don't worry about shaving or waxing. This may seem silly, but it really is one of the most common things people apologize for at a gyn visit. Unless you're worried that your pubic hair is hiding a concerning spot, leave it however you like it and please don't apologize — body hair is normal and natural!
During Your Appointment
Start with the awkward stuff. The gynecologist or nurse will usually ask you a few questions before any physical exam takes place. Pull out that phone and get those questions off your chest. I promise you, we've heard it all.
Answer your doctor’s questions honestly. Doctors can only help you as much as you let them. The first step is being honest when answering our questions — especially when it comes to your medical and surgical history, sex life, or any other health concerns you may have. We're here to help you find solutions to your issues, not pass judgment. If you ever feel like you're being judged by your doctor, it’s time to find a new one.
Questions to Ask During Your Visit
Even if you don’t have any specific concerns to bring up at your next gynecology visit, the following questions cover some basic health topics that anyone with a vagina might need to ask at some point in their life.
1. What type of health screenings do I need and when? Are there any special considerations due to my medical, surgical or family history or due to my race?
2. What can I do at home to keep my vulva and vagina healthy?
3. How can I tell the difference between what’s normal and what's not when it comes to premenstrual symptoms and my menstrual cycle?
4. What birth control options are available, and which one would you recommend given [xyz] in my medical, surgical, or family history?
5. I’m not ready for kids yet, but is there anything that you recommend I do now or in the near future to prepare?
6. What can I expect as I near menopause? Are there any steps I can take to make the transition smooth?
7. While you do my breast exam today, can you show me how to do a self breast exam?
8. How can I best practice safe sex and protect myself from STIs? How often should I get tested?
While these questions cover broad topics, they can also be used as a guide for coming up with more specific questions as they pertain to your health history. Remember, part of being a gynecologist means that we've heard it all — and more. Our job is to answer your questions about uncomfortable topics. Your only job is to make sure you ask those questions.
Learn More from Dr. Mare
How to Give Yourself a Self Breast Exam
YSK These Breast Cancer Tests Could Save Your Life
Protect Your Birth: A Guide For Black Birthers Navigating the Healthcare System
Meet the Author
Dr. Mare (she/her) @bookedwithdrmare is an OBGYN in New York passionate about the health of all those with vaginas and vulvas, especially patients of color and in the LGBTQ community. She strives to use her platform to reach a wider audience and provide them with easy to understand, evidence-based information that they can use for self-advocacy in their own lives. In her spare time, Dr. Mare loves weight lifting, rock climbing and scuba diving as well as traveling (when it’s finally safe again).
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.