According to a Kaiser Health poll, 92% of adults polled know that preventive care is important. However, only 44 million adults receive an annual exam, and only 19.4 million women receive a well-woman exam. Out of the 165 million women in America, that’s only about 11.5% who regularly receive well-woman exams.
If you’ve never had a well-woman exam, you might wonder what to expect. At Advance Medical Group, our providers offer preventive care tailored to your needs. That’s why we offer both well-man exams and well-woman exams. We believe that feeling prepared goes a long way in achieving a positive experience, and that’s why we created this guide — so you know what to expect when you come in.
Getting prepared for your well-woman exam
Before you arrive for your appointment, you’ll need to prepare a couple of things. First, be ready to discuss any concerning symptoms or changes to your health. This applies to your reproductive health as well as your overall health. You might want to write down any questions you have so you won’t forget them.
Second, you’ll need to prepare the following information:
- Any current medications (including the name and dosage)
- Any allergies you have
- The date of your last period
It’s not always easy to talk about sensitive topics, but our compassionate providers are here to help you. Some women find that writing down sensitive questions makes it easier to discuss them during the appointment.
Your physical exam
Both well-man and well-woman exams start with a general physical. A physical is designed to allow one of our providers an opportunity to check for warning signs of potential problems. During the exam, we check:
- Your vitals (this includes your blood pressure)
- Your ears and throat
- Your heart and lungs
- Your abdomen
- Your reflexes
In addition to a physical exam, we use blood tests to check for warning signs of other conditions like high blood sugar or high cholesterol.
Your pelvic exam
After the initial physical, you’ll have a pelvic exam. If you’ve never had a pelvic exam before, that’s okay. Our providers can talk you through each step so you feel more comfortable.
A pelvic exam consists of four parts:
- An external genital exam
- An internal exam (with a speculum) to check your cervix
- A Pap smear (if you’re due for one)
- A manual exam
During your exam, you lie back on a table with a privacy sheet draped over you. The external exam is designed to check for signs of sexually transmitted infections, structural abnormalities, or other conditions.
Next, a speculum is inserted with a lubricant. This step doesn’t hurt. Next, a Pap smear is performed during the internal exam. It’s a quick test and involves a quick swipe on the cervix with a medical swab. The Pap smear can help spot precancerous changes on your cervix.
The final part of the pelvic exam is a manual exam. During this step, one of our providers checks your ovaries and uterus for any red flags, such as lumps. Your ovaries can also be felt through abdominal palpation, so it’s normal to have your lower stomach palpated too.
Your breast exam
After the pelvic exam, one of our providers will perform a breast exam. Although you should perform them once a month on your own, they are also included in well-woman exams. The breast exam is designed to check for any lumps or areas of suspicious density. During the breast exam, only one breast is examined at a time, so you remain as fully covered as possible during each step.
If you have any questions about how to perform a self-exam at home, now is the perfect opportunity to ask.
Your opportunity to ask questions
One of the most important parts of your well-woman exam is your ability to speak one-on-one with our providers. Feel free to ask any questions (there’s no such thing as a “too embarrassing question”). Feel free to discuss family history, birth control, sexual activity, your weight, your diet, and even your mental health.
The more honest and open you are, the better advice we can give so you stay healthy and happy!
Whether you’re due for a well-woman exam or you’d like to discuss other services (like weight loss), we’re just a click away. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at any of our three clinics or request an appointment via our website.