1. Know why you set up an appointment.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends girls prepare for their first OBGYN appointment between the ages of 13 and 15, with a yearly wellness visit after that. You might have specific things to bring up with your doctor during your first appointment, like period issues, birth control options, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
It’s smart to be clear about why you’re seeing the OBGYN. That way, you can be prepared to discuss everything on your mind with your OBGYN doctor and be a better advocate for yourself. If you prepare before you get to the OBGYN, you can maximize your time and get your questions answered. Plus, preparing can help you combat pre-exam nerves.
2. If you’re under 21, you probably won’t need a pelvic exam or Pap test.
Regardless of your age, a medical professional will do a general physical exam to check your height, weight, and blood pressure before an OBGYN doctor checks you out.
Your doctor typically won’t perform a pelvic exam to check out your reproductive organs during your first OBGYN visit. The exception is if you’re sexually active, want STI testing, or have other health concerns like abnormal bleeding or very painful periods.
3. Still, it’s best to know what happens during a pelvic exam, just in case.
A typical pelvic exam consists of three parts, according to the ACOG. The first is an external genital exam to look at your vulva, which includes everything you can see on the outside of your body, like your labia, clitoris, and the opening of your vagina. If your doctor offers you a mirror so you can see what’s up down there—or if you want to request one—don’t be shy!
Your doctor will also perform a vaginal and cervical exam with a speculum, which is a device they’ll insert into your vagina and expand to get a better view of your vaginal walls and cervix. While the speculum is inserted, your doctor will use a soft brush or a flat scraping device to take samples for your Pap test and to test for certain STIs.
4. Even without a pelvic exam, you can still get birth control.
Most doctors don’t require a pelvic exam to prescribe birth control—they’re able to make an informed decision based on your medical history and personal habits. For some methods, you can usually walk out of the office with a prescription that day.
5. Don’t worry about how you look.
Though you might feel exposed during your first gyno exam, remember that your doctor isn’t judging any aspect of your body, whether it’s your pubic hair or the length of your labia. Their purpose is to evaluate you medically. If you’re able to, you can shower and rinse your labia with water before an appointment (no douching or perfume, though, because that can boost your risk of irritation or infection).
6. Be prepared to talk about your menstrual cycle—and your sex life.
You’ll need to know the first day of your last period, so make sure you’re keeping track of that in the month leading up to your exam. You should also mention any pain, cramps, heavy bleeding, irregularity, or mood changes you get with your period.
Your doctor will also ask about your sexual activity. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest here—your OBGYN will keep everything confidential and won’t judge you. Keep in mind that your oral sex and anal sex history count here, too, as both can lead to STIs.
7. Know your personal and family medical history.
Your doctor will ask you about any medical conditions you have, medications you’re on, and past surgeries. That stuff can be hard to remember, especially when you’re nervous, so it can help to prepare and write everything down for your OBGYN appointment. That includes any relevant dates.
They’ll also want to know your family’s medical history. It’s especially helpful to know about your mom’s health history and any family history of blood clots, as that can inform what birth control methods are best for you.
8. Know you have control over the appointment.
That starts from before you even arrive. You may find you’re more at ease talking to and being examined by either a male or female OBGYN. It’s OK to research different medical practitioners in your area and choose based on who you think you’d feel most comfortable with.
Then, if you are anxious when you arrive or at any time in your appointment, tell your doctor. Let them know it’s your first time and you’re nervous. You can ask to have a nurse come hold your hand, or you can even bring in headphones and music if that helps.” If your doctor’s OK with it, you can also bring someone into the room with you if you need a little extra support.