Is going to the gynecologist like going to the dentist? Well, in some ways it’s definitely not, but in some ways, it really is.
Visiting Her Wellness once a year and visiting your dentist twice a year can be very similar. Small issues can be discussed, identified and treated promptly, avoiding bigger challenges that can be painful, time-consuming and detrimentally impact your health.
Your dentist and Her Wellness visits are alike in another way. When a dental patient is at a routine cleaning and exam, an x-ray or check of the teeth may reveal a cavity or painful spot that will need further attention. The dentist will arrange another appointment to fill that cavity or do a further diagnostic test. When a patient arrives at Her Wellness for an annual exam and informs Dr. Garritano or Christina of pain, unusual cramping, irregular bleeding or discharge, it may be that another appointment will be required to ensure there is enough time to address, diagnose and discuss any treatment recommendations.
A surprising number of patients still put shaving on their to-do list prior to seeing their gynecologist, but just as your dentist is unconcerned if your upper lips and chin are waxed, Dr. Garritano and Christina are only concerned about the health of your reproductive system and not its grooming.
Of course, the similarities between your gynecologist visits and your dentist visits will end just about here.
Dr. Garritano and Christina understand that there is often confusion about how to prepare for an annual exam, what will happen and what you can expect afterwards.
How to prepare for an annual exam
In the days leading up to your exam, make notes about anything you’ve noticed that is out of the ordinary. Some patients may feel embarrassed or flustered in the exam room and want to just get “in and out,” forgetting all the symptoms Her Wellness need to hear. Writing notes helps you to remember everything you want to address. Please mention things that might seem insignificant but are unusual, as this helps us put together a bigger picture of your overall health. Mention any unusual bleeding, swelling, pain or cramping, whether associated with your menstrual cycle or not. Be honest and upfront about your sexual activity, including the number of partners and if having sex is painful.
Dr. Garritano and Christina will also ask you to note the date of the first day of your menstrual cycle. This information is important to determine hormone levels, possible pregnancy and irregularities in cycles, all indicators of situations that need further examination and care. Remember that in Connecticut, this information is solely and only used for your medical care.
What to expect during your exam
Your annual exam is preventative maintenance. You may be screened for abnormal changes to your cervix, sexually transmitted infections (STI), high blood pressure, breast changes, and cancers. When you first arrive, Christina or Liv will assess your vitals and confirm your medical history. Prior to the physical exam, you will undress from the waist down, placing a paper blanket over your lap. Her Wellness welcomes you to wear your own loose-fitting top throughout your examination.
Dr. Garritano or Christina will then come into the room. Using your notes, you both will discuss any concerns. Your provider will administer a breast exam, checking for lumps, thickening, healthy skin texture and nipple discharge. Following your breast exam, the doctor will check your labia, vulva, vagina pelvis and cervix. They will check your ovaries and uterus and insert a speculum and swab to collect a sample of cells to be tested, performing a Pap test.
Depending upon your concerns and what your providers finds during your exam, blood tests or other diagnostic tests may also be ordered.
What to expect with after it’s all over
Within a few weeks, you will have the results of your cervical exam and other tests collected during the time of exam if Dr. Garritano or Christina recommended one. When all your results come back “normal” we will ask to see you again in a year.
If anything is abnormal or if we have ordered labs due to abnormal symptoms, we will likely reach out to discuss the results in a televisit. There are many reasons for an abnormal result. It could be a yeast infection, it could be from sexual activity, it could be a mild HPV infection. If your pap smear results are abnormal due to the presence of HPV infection or abnormal cells, we may recommend having a repeat pap smear sooner than your next annual or will have you come in for an in-office biopsy of your cervix called a colposcopy. Be sure to keep this appointment and follow any preparation instructions carefully.
Any next steps are dependent on these second text results. Keeping open and honest communication between you and your provider is necessary for both your physical and emotional health. If you have questions or concerns, we are here to answer you thoroughly, completely and to your comfort level, whatever that may be.
If abnormal breast findings are present, Dr. Garritano or Christina will likely order a diagnostic mammogram or breast ultrasound for further exploration and diagnosis in addition to age-appropriate recommended screenings.
Make time now to protect your health
Routine medical appointments are life-saving. These appointments give Her Wellness providers a baseline to your health for comparison if concerns appear in the future. It is critical to your long-term health to schedule and attend annual appointments – and to invest time into preparing for them.
When was the last time you had an annual exam? If it hasn’t been within the last calendar year, it’s time. Schedule your appointment by calling 203-665-0900 or by clicking here.