By Jamie Rivera Published 01/20/2011 12:04:00 | Views: 4241

Going to the doctor is one way to learn about your body and how to stay healthy. Regular checkups can help identify problems before they become serious and give you an opportunity to talk about your concerns. If you are sexually active, regular checkups are especially important.

Planned Parenthood health centers around the country offer you the health care you need. Our caring and knowledgeable staff provide a wide range of services.


  • When should girls start going to the gynecologist?

    Girls should start getting gynecological exams three years after they become sexually active or when they reach 21, whichever happens first.  They should also see a health care provider if they have very painful periods or feel any pain in their genital or pelvic area. Always make sure to schedule your appointment for a time when you won't have your period so your provider can get accurate test results.

  • What should I do before I go to the gynecologist?

    You'll need to do a little homework before you go see your clinician. Think of any problems or questions you might have for her or him — it's even a good idea to write these down. For instance, if you're sexually active or thinking of becoming sexually active, your clinician can help you figure out what method of birth control. Here are some things about birth control you two might want to discuss:

    • Is it affordable?
    • What are the possible side effects?
    • How reversible is it?
    • Will it help protect against infections as well as pregnancy?
    • Does it have non-contraceptive benefits?  If so, what are they?

    You should also be ready to answer some questions about your health:

    • When was your last period; how often do you have them; and how long do they last?
    • Do you have vaginal discharge or spotting or bleeding between your periods? 
    • If you're sexually active, what kind of birth control do you use?
    • Do you experience any pain or bleeding during sex?
    • Have any of the women in your family had gynecological problems?
    • Have you had any other kinds of medical problems?
    • Have you ever been pregnant; do you think you might be pregnant; and are you trying to get pregnant?
    • Have you ever had a sexually transmitted infection; do you think you might have one?

    Women who have sexually transmitted infections don't always have symptoms, so it's important to tell your clinician if you've had unprotected sex — even if you feel fine. She'll also want to know if you have allergies or if you've had problems with any kind of medications in the past. And don't be surprised if she wants to know if you drink, smoke, or take drugs. Answer her honestly — she's not there to turn you in. She just needs to know the whole story in order to help you stay healthy.

  • What happens during a gynecological exam?

    Here's what you can expect from the exam itself:

    • First, your clinician might ask for a urine sample.
    • She'll also measure your weight and blood pressure.
    • Next, she'll check your breasts for any lumps or discharge from your nipples and will ask you if you've noticed anything unusual or experienced any pain. She may show you how to perform a breast self-examination (BSE) that you can do on your own. (It's really uncommon for teenage girls to get breast cancer, but it’s a good idea to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so you can tell your clinician about any changes.)

    The Pelvic Exam

    Your clinician will ask you to lie down on the examining table and put your feet in footrests so she can do a pelvic exam.

    • First of all, take a deep breath and relax! Although you're probably not used to a stranger poking around down there, she's definitely not going to do anything that will hurt, and the more relaxed you are, the more comfortable you'll be — mentally and physically!
    • You might want to ask her to explain what she's doing before or while she does it. If your health care provider is a man and you feel a little uncomfortable, you can ask a woman to stay with you in the room during your exam.
    • Your clinician will check out your vaginal area for signs of irritation, discharge, warts, or other conditions.
    • Next, she'll use a speculum to hold your vagina open so she can see your cervix. She'll take a look at your cervix for any abnormalities and collect a small sample of cells for a Pap test, to see if the cervix is healthy.

    • She might also test for infections. (You usually have to ask for these tests specifically — you should talk to her first and decide together what kind of tests you should have.)
    • Then, wearing gloves, she'll put one or two fingers in your vagina and press on your abdomen with the other hand. She'll feel your internal organs (the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) to make sure they're free of fibroids, cysts, and tumors. And she'll check the size, shape, and position of your uterus. You'll feel some pressure during this part of the exam, but if you feel tenderness or pain, tell your clinician — this could indicate infection.

    • Finally, 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.


  • Will the doctor tell my parents about my exam?

    Most health care providers keep their clients' information confidential. But for one reason or another, certain providers may not be able to guarantee complete confidentiality. Check with your providers about their confidentiality policies before making an appointment.

    Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care services that include information, contraception, testing, and education about a full range of options to women, men, and teens across the country. Planned Parenthood's policy is to protect client confidentiality to the extent the law allows.

  • Do I have to tell my doctor if I’ve had sex?

    Doctors and other health care providers often ask both teens and adults about their sex histories, including whether or not they are sexually active. It's important to be honest with health care providers so they can get an accurate picture of your health and needs. It can help health care providers determine if it's a good idea to test for sexually transmitted infections, prescribe birth control, recognize pregnancy symptoms, or talk with clients who have problems with their sexual relationship.

    There's sometimes confusion over what "sexually active" actually means. Some people may think it just refers to vaginal intercourse, but it's important to let health care providers know about other forms of sex play that may put people at risk for sexually transmitted infections, such as anal or oral sex.

    The confidentiality of this information is up to the health care provider, so teens who are concerned about confidentiality may want to ask providers about their policies before making an appointment.

    Planned Parenthood health centers strive to provide nonjudgmental, sex-positive services that are confidential and affordable, especially for teens. But for one reason or another, health care providers in certain locations may not be able to guarantee complete confidentiality. Make an appointment at the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

  • Do guys need to go to the doctor?

    Even though guys don't see doctors as routinely as women do, if they are sexually active, they should be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections at least once a year.   

    Many Planned Parenthood centers offer health services specifically for guys. Make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center near you.

  • What kind of doctors do guys see?

    For annual STD testing or for an occasional physical exam, a guy can see a clinician or a urologist — a physician who specializes in men's sexual and reproductive health care.

    During a man’s physical, the clinician will feel his testicles for any signs of testicular cancer, which is most common among younger men between 15 and 35. The clinician will also examine your scrotum and penis for other lumps, bumps, warts, and sores that could mean something is wrong. The head of the penis will be squeezed to see if there's any unusual discharge, and you'll "turn your head and cough" to be checked for hernias — ruptures that can form in the muscles of the abdomen.

    None of these things should be painful. If they are, let the clinician know — it may be a sign of a problem.

    At this point, it's a good idea to ask your clinician how to do a testicular self-exam. Testicular cancer is very rare, but it's a good idea to learn what feels normal so you can recognize any changes. You'll check yourself regularly for lumps, bumps, or any other changes in how your testicles feel.

    To evaluate the prostate gland, the clinician will place some lubricant on a finger and insert it into your anus. You'll probably feel some pressure, but if you relax, it shouldn't be painful, and it's over quickly.

    Many Planned Parenthood centers offer health services specifically for guys. Make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center near you.

  • Why should I get tested for sexually transmitted infections every year?

    Most people have no symptoms when they have a sexually transmitted infection. That's why so many people unknowingly pass on infections to their partners.

    And that’s why you can't depend on your partner to tell you if something is wrong. She or he may be too afraid or embarrassed to tell you, or may not even know that something's wrong! There's only one person you can depend on when it comes to your sexual health, and that's you.

    Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is one of the most important things you can do for your health. But, unless you've asked for a sexual health checkup, clinicians won't automatically test for infection — YOU have to ask. It can be scary to bring up the topic, but it's absolutely essential — if you do have an infection, it's important to get treated as soon as possible.

    Genital warts, pubic lice, and scabies may be detected during a physical exam. Your clinician will need your help to decide what other tests may be needed. Blood may be drawn to test for hepatitis, herpes, HIV, or syphilis. Urine samples can be used to test for chlamydia or HIV. Samples of discharge can be used to test for herpes, gonorrhea, or syphilis. Tissue can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or scabies. Saliva can be used to test for HIV antibodies.

  • What questions can I expect before getting tested for sexually transmitted infection?

    Here are some common questions that clinicians ask:

    • How many sexual partners have you had recently?
    • How many sexual partners have you had in your lifetime?
    • Do you have sex with women, men, or both?
    • Do you have oral sex?
    • Do you have anal sex?
    • Do you use condoms?

    These questions might seem a little personal, but it's important to be truthful so that your health care provider gets an accurate picture of your health and the sexual risks you may be taking in order to determine which tests are appropriate.

By Jamie Rivera 01/20/2011 12:04:00

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