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What is a wellness visit?

Your wellness visit is all about you, your body, and your reproductive health. Wellness visits are also called gynecological exams, pelvic exams, annual exams, or well woman 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 wellness visit?

What happens during your wellness visit (some people call it a "well woman" visit) 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 wellness 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.

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

During a wellness visit, you get some specific cancer-related tests and exams. The type of tests and exams depend on your age, medical history, and when you had your last test:

As you get older, or if your health changes, your wellness visits will include other tests and exams. Talk with your nurse or doctor about what tests and exams make sense for you.

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 wellness visit. The more honest you are, the better care you’ll get.

Have 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.

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?)

  • What gender(s) of people do you have sex with, and what kinds of sex do you have?

  • 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 wellness 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

  • tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, HPV, or other infections you may be worried about

  • itching or discomfort on your vulva or in your vagina

  • 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, bad or abnormal smells, 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.

Depending on your age and other factors, you’ll have HPV and/or Pap tests to check for early signs that cervical cancer could develop. At age 25, you’ll also start having clinical breast exams to screen for breast cancer. Around age 40 you’ll get other cancer screenings (like mammograms), depending on your family history and other possible health risks.

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