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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Opinion: Preventative measures

For the woman who has never visited an OB-GYN, the idea of gynecological check-ups can be terrifying. Who can blame her? There is hardly an appeal to lying naked on a table with your legs spread wide and a complete stranger in between them. And having to put your feet in stirrups anywhere except on a horse is just awkward.
But the fact is, gynecological check-ups are just as important, if not more, than annual teeth cleanings, eye exams or mole-checks. OB-GYN appointments serve to examine the sexual organs for complications like sexually transmitted infections, cysts, tumors, HPV and cervical cancer cells. Basically, these appointments can save lives.
When I found out that the majority of my friends, most of whom are well over the age of 18 and even sexually active, have never been to the OB-GYN, I freaked. These are the women I care about the most and if any of them were to fall ill to a disease that couldve been detected early, I wouldnt know what to do with myself.
Then I realized that if this lack of vaginal attention is so prevalent among just my circle of friends, its probably greater outside of it.
So, without further adieu: what to expect during a pelvic exam and why it isnt as bad as everyone thinks.
The first step is finding a gynecologist. Most of the time, the gynecologist will depend on your insurance plan, but if possible, take suggestions from friends or family members. If you have limited or no insurance, the on-campus Womens Clinic, Planned Parenthood or any other community health clinics are all great options.
The gynecologist will give you specific instructions on vaginal care for the 48 hours leading up to the appointment. Its important to follow these instructions because they can affect how accurate test results are. Also, be careful not to schedule the appointment during your period; youll likely be sent home.
I suggest bringing a friend or family member to help ease the nerves. My mom came with me for my first check-up and stayed in the examination room with me the whole time. She held my hand and made jokes and everything was ok. Having moral support for such a big-girl event is invaluable, so if you can find someone you trust, I highly recommend it. A nurse can also be requested to stay present during the exam.
After removing all clothes, you will be instructed to sit on the end of the examination table, lie back and rest your heels in the stirrups. The cool thing is that if you want to watch this portion of the exam, you can ask for a mirror. Ive never done it, but its totally on my bucket list. And if you feel self conscious about having a face so close to your lady bits, just remember: gynecologists see vaginas everyday. They arent judging you.
The gynecologist will first inspect the outer parts of the vagina for irritations, cysts, genital warts or other conditions. Then, he or she will insert a lubricated speculum into the vagina for the Pap test. A speculum is a tool that holds the walls of the vagina apart so the doctor is able to swab for cervical cells and discharge, which will later be tested for cancer and sexually transmitted infections. Discomfort is normal during this part of the exam, but it shouldnt be painful. If it is, tell the doctor immediately so that adjustments can be made. Speculums come in different sizes and it could just be that the speculum in use is not your size.
Next, the doctor will examine the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries by inserting one or two gloved fingers into the vagina while pressing on the lower abdomen. This part of the exam can determine the state of your fertility and what birth control choices will best suit you. It is also meant to check for infections, enlarged ovaries, cysts and tumors.
Finally, the gynecologist may perform a recto-vaginal exam to check for tumors behind the uterus. He or she may also perform a breast exam.
Once dressed, you can talk to the doctor about various protective immunizations, birth control options if needed, when to expect the Pap test results and when to have your next check up. This is a great time to ask any sexual health questions you may have. Gynecologists are here to help. No question is a stupid question.
The good news is, the entire exam will only take about three to four minutes roughly the time it took to read this column.
Gynecological check ups are important and every woman, sexually active or not, should have one. A check-up is a responsible, preventative measure and you owe it to yourself to keep your lady-bits happy and healthy.

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