Most annual checkups with an OBGYN include a lot of the same things – a look at your vagina and cervix with the help of a speculum, a Pap smear, a manual breast exam, and STI testing. But that doesn’t mean your appointment is just something to check off your to-do list. What you get out of your visit can depend on what you put into it – so here’s how to make sure you make the most of your time in the stirrups.
Write it all down. It’s easy to lose your train of thought when all your goods are on display, so come prepared. Before your appointment, make three lists: one for your health history and medications you take (including herbs and supplements), one for your family health history, and one for all of your questions. If this is a repeat visit to your usual doc, include anything that’s changed, like a family member’s new diagnosis or an update to your medication dosage.
Bring your prescriptions along. Sitting naked on some parchment paper doesn’t always lend itself to the calm recollection of every prescription you take, how much, and when. Bring a list– or even the bottles themselves – along to help jog your memory. (Oscar members, no need to lug those bottles. Your Oscar app has all of your prescription info!)
Get there early. Get to the office early enough – Cleveland Clinic recommends15-20 minutes – that filling out forms and getting your vitals checked by a physician’s assistant (aka a PA) doesn’t cut into your one-on-one time with your doc.
Get on the same page. State upfront why you’re there. Annual checkup and a question about your birth control? Weird discharge? The PA may ask this while taking your vitals, but make sure you repeat it to your doc too.
Ask ALL the things (and tell ALL the things too). Everything from “how do I do a breast exam on myself?” to “which way does the gown go?” to “I had unprotected sex last week. Which STI tests do I need?” is fair game. If getting totally honest about certain things freaks you out, you’re in good company – 30% of women admit lying to their doctors. But there’s no such thing as TMI in your OBGYN’s examination room…and that includes everything from unprotected sex to drug use. (And hey, if you’re really not feeling talkative, break out that list of questions.)
Ask about the next steps. Should you call for your test results or will the office call you? When should you come back? How long will it take for that yeast infection to clear up? Your OBGYN or the front desk should be able to send you on your way knowing what’s next.
Follow up if you need to. Your relationship with your OBGYN doesn’t start and end in the office. If you have lingering questions or concerns, pick up the phone. You may not always reach your OBGYN directly – a nurse or PA may be able to answer your questions – but you should always get the answers you need.
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