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What is a well-woman visit?

Your well-woman visit is all about you, your body, and your reproductive health. Well-woman visits are also called gynecological exams, pelvic exams, or annual exams. If you have a vulva, breasts, or a uterus, these visits are an important part of taking care of your health (no matter what your gender identity is).

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What happens during a well-woman visit?

What happens during your well-woman visit (some people call it a well woman exam) depends on a few things, like how old you are, your sexual history, and medical history.

It’s a good idea to have your first well-woman visit around age 13 to 15. It may just be a talk with your doctor plus a regular physical exam. Your doctor or nurse will check your height, weight and blood pressure.

You might talk about your period, especially if you’re worried about it being heavy, painful, or irregular. If you’re under 18, you may get some shots, like the HPV vaccine, as well.

If you’re sexually active (meaning you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex), you may talk about birth control or STD testing.

Around age 21, you’ll start needing regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations. And as you get older, or as your health changes, your well-woman visits will include other tests and referrals for stuff like mammograms.

One thing that stays the same, no matter how old you are, is building a good, honest relationship with your doctor or nurse. You can talk about healthy relationships and other parts of your emotional health during your well-woman visit. The more honest you are, the better care you’ll get.

Have a breasts and/or a vagina but don’t identify as a woman? It’s still a good idea to have these kinds of check-ups with your nurse or doctor, along with any trans care you’re receiving.

What kinds of questions will they ask me?

First, your doctor or nurse will ask about your medical history and your family's medical history.

These questions help them give you the care that's right for you, so try to be as honest and as complete as you can. They’ll ask you questions like:

  • When was your last period?

  • How often do you have periods?

  • How long do they last?

  • Do you ever bleed/spot between periods?

  • Do you have any unusual pain, itching, or discharge from your vagina or vulva?

  • Do you have any other medical conditions?

  • What medical problems do other members of your family have?

  • Are you sexually active? (In other words: have you ever had vaginal, anal, or oral sex?)

  • Do you have sex with men, women, or both?

  • Is sex ever painful?

  • Do you  bleed during or after sex?

  • Are you using birth control?

  • Do you think you might be pregnant?

  • Do you want to get pregnant?

  • What do you do to prevent STDs?

Your doctor or nurse may also ask you about alcohol or other drug use, allergies, illnesses, infections, smoking, and any surgery you might have had. All these things can affect your reproductive health, so be honest.

It’s important to have a doctor or nurse you trust and can be open with. So if you’re not comfortable being 100% honest with your current doctor or nurse, think about switching to someone else.

Your well-woman exam is a time for you to ask questions, too! Your doctor can answer any questions you might have about:

  • birth control

  • bleeding or pain after sex

  • irregular periods

  • pelvic pain

  • pregnancy tests ds

  • tests for chlamydia, herpes, HIV, HPV, or other infections you may be concerned about

  • vaginal discharge/smell

Make sure you ask all the questions that you want to. If you need any tests, you can usually take care of them during your appointment.  

Will I need to have any tests?

It depends. If you have abnormal bleeding, vaginal itching, foul odors, or any kind of pain or swelling, your doctor might want to run some tests. If you’ve had sex, it’s important to get tested for STDs. Or you may not need any tests at all.

Once you’re 21, you’ll start having Pap tests to check for the early signs of cervical cancer. You’ll also start having clinical breast exams to screen for breast cancer. Other cancer screenings, like mammograms, start later in life — around age 40, depending on your family history and other possible health risks.

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