Nervous about going to the gynecologist? That’s a bummer.
Okay, that’s all the sympathy you’re going to get from us, because you’ve got to get over it. Your health is at stake, especially once you’re sexually active — and there’s nothing more important.
We all have to do things we don’t like: take our vitamins, shovel snow when it’s blocking the front door, pay our taxes, leave the womb. But we do it; we just get it over with as quickly and with as little fanfare as possible — and it ultimately makes our lives easier and better. When you were a kid, you certainly didn’t want to get your shots, but you had to, your parents made you, you didn’t have a choice — and at the time, you probably thought you were going to die. But you didn’t. And because you got the shots, you’ve avoided getting terrible diseases which could have killed you. See, better!*
Yes, there are much more enjoyable things to do than go to the gynecologist, but it’s hardly a visit to Gitmo. You lie back, bend your knees, spread your legs, breathe deeply, and try to relax while your gyno takes a look down there (more deets from Dr. Kate here). It usually takes less than two minutes, though our nerves can make it feel like fifteen. It’s not painful, just a bit uncomfortable and awkward.
Here are 8 things we’d recommend to make the whole thing less daunting, i.e. more comfortable and less awkward:
1. Get a mirror and start probing yourself. It’s sounds hippy-dippy, but the better you know your own body, the more empowered you’ll be. Doctors are often scary because they hold all this knowledge that you don’t. Even the playing field a bit by getting down there and taking a look around. Feel inside with your fingers. You can even order your own speculum from a female-friendly place like GoodVibrations so you can see what your gyno can see. (Just be sure to read up on proper procedure.) Plus it’ll get you familiar with the feeling.
2. Love your vagina. We know talk of speculums and beaver shots may sound gross, but there’s nothing gross about your body. Try to have happy, positive thoughts about your bod, especially your genitals — learn to love them, and then you’ll want to take care of them by going to the doctor regularly.
3. Go to a doctor that comes highly recommended. Ask around and find out who among your friends and family has a great gyno — then, assuming she’s in your health care company’s network, go to her. And we do mean her — having a person who can empathize with your body parts, and not inadvertently make you feel even more self-conscious while your pants are off really makes a difference, at least in our book. But just because a gynecologist is a woman, doesn’t automatically mean she’ll have a great bedside manner (which is why you need the personal recommendation), but the odds are probably better with a lady doc.
4. Have a close friend or family member be your wingwoman: Explain that you’re nervous and ask for help. Make the appointment for a time they can come along with you. Have them pick you up and go with you to the appointment. If you’re really scared, then them come into the exam room with you (just get clearance from the doc’s office beforehand). Have them hold your hand, make eye contact with you and distract you with small talk during the exam. Don’t worry about being perceived as a wimp — if it makes you feel better and keeps you up on the exam table, that’s all that matters. If you’re there, you’re not a wimp.
5. Tell your gyno that you’re nervous. Sounds basic, we know, but if she knows you’re nervous (we’re guessing the wingwoman will be a hint!) she can make a special effort to talk you through what she’s doing as she’s doing it. (The best gynos do this as a matter of course, which is just one more reason to get a recommendation.
6. Learn how to relax, physically and mentally. Take some yoga classes, do your kegels, get in the habit of breathing deeply and abdominally — because the more tense you are, the more uncomfortable it’s going to be.
7. Schedule your appointment in the afternoon so you can go to lunch and have a glass of wine first. Then, make sure you have something fun to do with your friend afterwards, so you have something to look forward to. But make a pact with yourself that you can’t do the fun thing unless you go to the doc first.
8. Check yourself: If you think there’s a chance your anxiety stems from some past trauma you haven’t dealt with emotionally, seek professional therapy. (This is not to say, of course, that your anxiety necessarily has a root cause — it’s perfectly natural to be nervous about a gyno visit with no past trauma at all.)
Be sure to check out Dr. Kate’s take on gynecologist fears here (after all, she’s a nice woman who looks at vaginas all day long!)
*Let’s save debates about vaccinations for another website.