Women's Sexual Health Exams


GETTING AN ANNUAL WOMEN'S EXAM

When should I go?

Annual routine checkups are the best way to screen for potential problems. You should make an appointment with your health care provider once a year if....

  • if you are over the age of 21
  • if you have ever been sexually active
  • if you are interested in obtaining birth control

It’s best to schedule your annual checkup around day 14 of your menstrual cycle, or about 2 weeks after the starting date of your period. You can also make an appointment for a GYN evaluation (not an annual exam) anytime you experience a change in vaginal discharge, burning, redness, or swelling.

If you'd like to make an appointment at the Women's Clinic in the Auburn University Medical Clinic you can call 334-844-4416, extension 3.

If you’re interested in getting prescribed birth control pills, vaginal rings, or dep0-provera, an annual exam is required before any of these methods can be obtained. 

What's involved?

The visit may include lab tests (such as a Pap smear and/or tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea), a breast exam and the pelvic exam.  A pelvic exam is a relatively quick procedure consisting of two major parts: a speculum exam, in which your clinician visually examines your cervix and completes any recommended lab tests, and a bimanual exam, where your clinician will feel the position of your internal organs with his/her fingers. The visit will take about one hour, but the actual pelvic exam normally takes about five minutes.

Before Your Appointment

There are a few things you should keep in mind before your appointment:

Do not douche, have sex, or use tampons 48 hours before your exam. These may change the cells of the cervix, which must be left undisturbed in order to get an accurate Pap smear reading.

Make a list of questions to take with you to the exam. Your health care provider is a wealth of information and should be able to answer your questions on your body, birth control, risks associated with different sexual behaviors, and sexually transmitted infection symptoms and prevention.

What Should I Expect?

  1. Head to the Women's Clinic on the second floor of the Medical Clinic.
  2. When you come into the office, you will be asked to fill out a form of your medical history, date of your last period, and previous sexual activity, such as number of partners and history of condom use. It's important to be completely honest on this form, even if it's embarrassing. Your health care provider is there to help you, and the only way s/he can help you is if you provide truthful information.
  3. A staff member will lead you to a room and record some basic health information, such as your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, and general health.
  4. Next the staff member will lead you to the exam room, where you will be instructed to undress and wait for the clinician. You will be given a hospital gown with an opening in the front, as well as a sheet to cover yourself.
  5. The health care provider and an assistant will come into the room and begin the exam. This will include a thorough breast exam. Your clinician will feel in circles around your breast tissue for any lumps or abnormalities. S/he should also check your glands and abdomen for swelling.
  6. The health care provider will then perform the actual pelvic exam. S/he will position herself at the bottom of the exam table and will visually examine your vulva, looking for any bumps, sores, or other abnormalities. The clinician will then gently insert a heated speculum and open it just enough to get a good look at your cervix. Swabs may be taken of the vaginal walls, as well as a Pap smear, which checks for changes in the cells of the cervix. The important part is to relax!
  7. The bimanual exam is normally the last portion of the examination. Your clinician will insert one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into your vagina, and feel around your abdomen with her other hand. During this, s/he is checking for the size, shape, and position of your uterus.
  8. Your clinician may insert a finger into your rectum to test the condition of your muscles and check for tumors in this area. Again, it's normal to feel a bit of discomfort and pressure, but this should only last a few seconds.
  9. Every examination allows time for questions and answers. In addition to explaining what s/he is doing, your health care provider should spend some time talking with you about ways to stay healthy, avoid infection, and, if you are sexually active, practice safer sex. This is a good time to bring up that list of questions you prepared earlier!

Whether you visit the Auburn University Medical Clinic or another provider, your experience should be similar to that listed above.

BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION

Breast self-examination (BSE) is one of three ways to detect breast cancer. The best cancer check is a breast x-ray or mammogram. The third way is a clinical breast exam.

BSE is easy to do. Knowing how your breasts look and feel will help you notice any changes. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

BSE should be done monthly. Check your breasts about one week after your period. If you don't have regular periods, do it at the same time every month.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection

Breast Self-Exam:
Optional, but provides an opportunity to know more about your body and your breasts.

Clinical Exam:
See a doctor or nurse for a physical breast exam. It should be part of a woman's periodic health examination. A clinical breast exam should occur about every 3 years for women in their 20s & 30s and annually for women over 40.

Mammography:
Women should have a baseline mammogram by age 40 and then once every year.

How to Examine Your Breasts: