Say the words, “Annual Exam…” and most women will immediately look like a deer in the headlights…women who haven’t found the right OB/GYN, that is. In fact, your annual OB/GYN visit is nothing to fear, dread or worry about. Consider it one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself to ensure your overall reproductive health. Plus, you may not realize this but times have changed and, in most cases, a pap smear is only required every three years, rather than every year like they used to be.
Here are some of the most typical reasons why women tell us they skip, fear or dread their annual visits – – and our response.
- It’s so embarrassing. Yes, it’s often a little embarrassing for women the first few times. Here you are, baring all the essentials to someone you’ve just met, trying to disassociate from your body as they look/feel/press/palpate and run tests here and there. We get it.Our response: Here’s the reality: Our doctors and midwives are in this profession because we love women, health, proactive healthcare, pregnancy, babies and guiding women through menopause. We’re here to be your facilitators, educators and guides – depending on where you’re at on your path. In 99.9% of cases, scared patients smile or laugh at the end of their appointment and say, “That wasn’t bad at all…” Use your annual visits to find the right OB/GYN for you and pretty soon, your annual visits will be a chance to catch up with your doctor-friend, as you empower yourself learning more about your body, your options and your reproductive life.
- It hurts. Your annual exam absolutely should not hurt.Our response: If you have been hurt by your doctor, communicate immediately to him or her to resolve the situation or begin looking for referrals for someone with a more gentle hand. Your pelvic exam should not cause any pain whatsoever. A pap smear may cause a gentle twinge, but should never be dramatic enough to be considered overtly painful. If you’ve had a negative experience with an OB/GYN in the past, please do your new doctor a favor and let her know so she can listen to your experience and be extra cautious to ensure it isn’t repeated.
- If I don’t need a pap smear, I just skip the exam. Yahoo! Women around the United States rejoiced when the standard of care for women’s health changed the recommendations regarding the frequency of pap smears.Our Response: The good news is that pap smears are no longer required every year for women who have had clear pap results in the past. If you have had an abnormal pap smear test in the past, you may be required to have a pap smear more frequently. In fact, in most cases where cervical cancer is detected, the patient hadn’t had a pap smear in five or more years. However, even in the “off years”, it’s still important to maintain your annual exam to keep in touch with your doctor, discuss your current lifestyle and to assess your goals.During your exam, you can learn vital information regarding diet, lifestyle and current medical information pertaining to a future planned pregnancy or upcoming menopause. Also, we’ll teach you how to perform a breast exam while doing one for you and you’ll still receive a pelvic exam, as we look for abnormalities you may not have noticed on your own. Early detection of lumps, bumps and tender parts is key to getting the treatment you need.
- I’m afraid to learn the truth about (fill-in-the-blank). Our culture isn’t all that forthcoming with information about female reproductive parts, medical conditions pertaining to the reproductive system, sex and so on. For this reason, many patients fear their annual exams because they’re afraid of learning the truth.Our response: This is an even better reason to come in for your annual exam. If you‘re afraid of learning something, it’s your body’s indirect way of saying, “I really need to know about this!” Never ever be embarrassed to ask a question or tell us the truth. We want to provide you with accurate information. We need to know if you have multiple sexual partners so we can recommend the appropriate tests. You need to know if you have an STD so you can get the treatment you need and so you can protect others from contracting it. If something seems abnormal for you, it may be your body’s way of saying something isn’t right and the sooner we can detect it, the sooner you can be back on your way to healthy.
- I can’t afford it, or, I don’t have insurance. That’s okay too. There are plenty of free, or low-cost, health clinics that provide annual exams for those who qualify. Other offices often provide price breaks for those who can’t afford it or who don’t have insurance. Give your OB/GYN a call and see how they can help. You may be able to make monthly installment payments or you can use a service like CareCredit so you can get zero-percent financing for up to 6-, 12-, or 18-months – depending on your situation.
Don’t let your fears prevent you from getting the high-quality health care you deserve. Are you overdue for your annual exam? Call Overlake OB/GYN (425-454-3366) to schedule your appointment and we promise to make it as comfortable and easy for you as possible.