Even bold individuals shudder when it comes to annual (or biannual) gynecology appointments. The very mention of “gynecologist” brings up images of waiting rooms filled with anxious parents-to-be (or anxious hopefully-not-parents-to-be) and vats of industrial lube. But regular gynecology checkups are necessary and healthy, especially if one is sexually active, is in need of hormones, or is 18+ years old. So, in preparation of your first, second, or seventh gynecology appointment, here are some things to look for in a productive, attentive visit:
- Do they ask for your sexual preference?
This is different than just asking how many partners you’ve had. Some sexual orientations correlate with mental and physical health issues such as depression, anxiety, and cardiac complications. A medical professional needs to be aware of a patient’s risk factors before recommending or prescribing contraceptives and hormones, and before making a diagnosis.
Cosima’s right, but it is important for a gynecologist to know.
- Do they ask if you’re taking any hormones?
Most gynecologists should ask if you’re taking any medication or if you’re on birth control. It’s important that they say “medication” or “hormones” because many individuals, such as trans individuals or individuals with hormonal imbalances, take hormones in order to regulate their bodies and in order to be themselves. To ask about hormones or medication as well as birth control makes for a more inclusive visit, which indicates that your doctor seeks to be well informed.
- Do they make you comfortable?
There is nothing comfortable about spreading your legs while in a paper dress for someone in a lab coat (unless that’s what you’re into). But a pleasant gynecologist visit includes a doctor who goes out of their way to make the experience as least icky as possible. That’s a tall order for a visit that involves lubricant, but effort goes a long way.
As Jane knows, the most effective doctors are attentive.
- Do they encourage your decision making?
Gynecologists are there to guide you and help you make your best decisions. They are not there to necessarily make your decisions for you. If your doctor is invalidating your family planning decisions, that’s something to scrutinize. That being said, discouraging unhealthy behavior is not invalidation. Know the difference between insisting on the use of condoms and insisting you will “change your mind” about having children to the point of discouraging long term birth control.
- Do they fulfill your needs?
The most important question to ask yourself at a visit is: what do you need? What stage are you in as far as family planning goes? If you’re not planning to get pregnant anytime soon, then a general gynecologist will be fine as opposed to an OB-GYN. If you have a specific need or condition, then there are also specialized gynecologists. It depends on what you need at this point of your life.
Gynecology visits will never be fun. But they can be productive and conducive to a healthier lifestyle, especially if you look out for your preferences and needs.