Updated December 2021
Your regular physical occurs just once a year, so it’s important to work closely with our providers to ensure you’re getting the most out of your annual exam. Of course, we’re available to discuss any concerns with you at any time throughout the year, but we’ve found the following principles are very useful in helping guide the conversation during our time together.
We call this effective communication coupled with compassionate care.
“This is a great time for us to get to know your health concerns and issues,” said Dr. Sonya Williams. “But most importantly, it establishes us as partners in your care. We want to assure you that we will always be there to supply the highest level of compassionate service for you.”
We’ll take a look at how to get the most out of your annual exam, the best ways to prepare, and some questions you should ask us.
What Happens During an Annual Exam?
This is your yearly physical where we assess all aspects of your gynecological health. This may include a Pap smear, breast cancer screening and pelvic exam. We may also discuss birth control and screening tests.
This is also a chance for us to discuss any other challenges you may be facing, whether that involves depression, difficulty sleeping, nutrition, or sexual problems.
How Do I Prepare for an Annual GYN Exam? 5 Simple Steps
Taking these simple steps can help you be more prepared and relaxed before your OBGYN annual exam:
1. Try not to schedule your exam for when you’re on your period
However, If you unexpectedly have your period the day of your annual exam, we want you to know that we can still generally examine someone when they are having a period. If it makes you more comfortable to wait and reschedule, we’ll be glad to accommodate you.
However, irregular periods may be an indicator of a health issue. If you find that your period is typically irregular, we encourage you to speak with us. While irregular periods are very common, they can also be caused by polyps or fibroids. We want to know the cause so we can help you.
2. Don’t douche before your exam.
If you have vaginal discharge, it’s important that we are able to evaluate it. Plus, douching can change the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina, so we do not advise our patients to douche at any time, regardless of whether or not they have an exam scheduled.
3. Avoid vaginal intercourse for 24 hours before your exam
4. Feel free to ask about non-OBGYN issues
Having difficulty sleeping?
Are you feeling depressed a lot lately?
We want to know. Many of your bodily functions are interconnected. For example, the trouble that you are having with your bladder may be a clue as to what is going on with your vagina.
We consider it a privilege to care for you, and for that reason, we want to know about all your health issues. Even if these issues aren’t necessarily gynecological in nature, we still need to have the information to give us a more complete picture.
We can also refer you to specialists if you need them, particularly if it’s discovered that you have a chronic illness such as diabetes.
5. Ask us about screening tests
Yes, we conduct a lot of screening tests, and we’ll review some of them below:
What Tests Do Gynecologists Do?
Depending upon your individual situation, we may conduct a Pap smear to test for cervical cancer. We may also have blood work drawn to get a good overall picture of your health and help us screen for high cholesterol and diabetes. If needed or requested, we can also test you for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In addition, if you’re having heavy bleeding from periods, we’ll explore this issue further to determine the exact nature and cause to create a plan to help you.
Ask us about when you should consider beginning regular screenings for conditions such as:
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon cancer
- Uterine cancer
There may be other tests you need depending upon your individual health history. Speak to us so we can help guide you. We’ve outlined questions that you should consider asking at your next physical.
What Questions Should I Ask My Gynecologist?
5 Questions You Should Ask at Your Next OBGYN Annual Exam
Remember that we are always here to answer any questions or concerns that you have. While we address concerns about any topic, we believe it’s important to ask your gynecologists the following questions:
1. What screenings should I have at my age?
Regular screenings for your general health can help ensure your sexual health.
We recommend a Pap smear, pelvic exam and clinical breast exam at your OBGYN annual exam. Pap smears are done every three to five years depending upon your age and the results of the last Pap smear.
However, your personal health history may require other screenings or more frequent screenings.
2. How often should I be tested for STIs?
There’s no blanket answer to this question; when you should get tested and how often depends upon a number of factors that we’ll be happy to discuss with you.
However, in general:
- Those ages 13 to 64 should have at least one test for HIV.
- Sexually active patients younger than 26 should have annual testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Any patient with multiple sex partners or a partner who has an STI should be tested every year.
- If you are pregnant, you should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy.
3. How can I talk to my partner about STIs?
Communication with your partner is vital for your sexual health.
If you are not sure how to start the conversation, we can provide some insight and talking points to help you.
Often, the most fulfilling sexual relationships are the ones where there is open and honest communication.
Sexual health goes far beyond getting tested for infections. Sexual health is about experiencing intimacy that is both satisfying and free from issues such as painful intercourse.
Remember, we’re partners in your care. We are always here for you and welcome any questions you may have.
We encourage you to take advantage of our STI screening services and schedule your OBGYN annual exam so we can discuss the matters that are most important to you.
“Your sexual health is extremely important, and it’s about more than avoiding STIs [sexually transmitted infections]. We always want our patients to have a safe and fulfilling sexual life. Often, this means getting tested, having open communication with your partner, and seeing us if you have concerns about or symptoms of an STI,” said Carey Jefferson, CNM.a “Without treatment for STIs, there is an increased chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to pain, infertility, and a greater risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.”
4. What are the best birth control options for me?
There are several different options available, whether you’re considering temporary or permanent birth control.
Schedule an appointment with us and we’ll be glad to help.
Realize that birth control alone will not protect you from STIs .
5. Recently, sex has felt different for me. Why is this happening?
It’s not unusual to experience changes toward sex.
This could be due to everything from low libido to vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. The important thing is to speak to us and maintain open communication with your partner so we can help.
We also would like patients to be completely honest and provide details about their:
- Sexual history
- Condom use
- Current symptoms
- Possibility of pregnancy
- Sexual practices
We can discuss these at your OBGYN annual exam.
Always Write Down Any Additional Questions You Want to Ask Us
We want you to ask questions.
By doing so, you help us craft the best health care plan to suit your individual needs.
First and foremost, we want to encourage our patients to be completely honest with us about all aspects of their sexuality, including how many partners they have had.
If we do not have all the information we need, then we’re not able to tailor the most effective health care plan for you.
Never be embarrassed to ask us anything. We have worked with patients of all ages, from all walks of life, and our only concern is for your health and well-being.
We are dedicated to the highest standards of patient privacy and your medical history will always be kept confidential.
Consider These Additional Topics for Discussion at Your Next Checkup
Below are some additional topics that you should consider discussing with us:
- Preconception planning
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- Breast self-exams
- Sex—particularly if intercourse is painful
- Family history of cancer
- Current medications
- Any herbal or natural supplements you’re taking
- Questions about anatomy or physical changes regarding your genitals
- Irregular, painful or heavy periods
- Any previous tests that had abnormal results
- Birth control
We Have Been Partners in Your Health for More Than 40 Years
Do you have questions about your sexual health?
Do you need to have an OBGYN annual exam?
Are you concerned about STIs or do you feel your sex life could be more fulfilling?
Working together we can tailor solutions to help you live the healthiest life possible.
Experience, compassion and access to state-of-the-art care. This, coupled with a personalized approach to medicine, has made Chapel Hill OBGYN one of the leading practices in the region and the provider of choice for hundreds of patients in the Triangle area.
Discover a Better Way Toward a Healthier Life with Chapel Hill OBGYN
Your yearly physical is an important appointment you shouldn’t overlook. This enables us to not only conduct routine cancer screenings, but it allows time for us to discuss your health care needs and goals.
Schedule an appointment with us today—many times we can fit you in within two weeks after your call. See why we’re the trusted OBGYNs in the Chapel Hill, Durham and the Triangle areas.
For more than 40 years, Chapel Hill OBGYN has served patients in the Triangle area, sharing the joy of little miracles and supporting them during challenges. Our board-certified physicians and certified nurse midwives bring together the personal experience and convenience of a private practice with the state-of-the-art resources found at larger organizations. To schedule an appointment, please contact us for more information.