Annual Visits are a great time to talk with your provider about your personal health. These visits are the start in building a good, honest relationship with your provider. Asking questions and raising concerns helps your health care provider know what’s important to you.
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 along with any trans care you’re receiving.
What happens during an Annual Visit?
It depends on a few things, like how old you are, your sexual history, your medical history, and what body parts you have.
You might talk about your period, especially if you’re worried about it being heavy, painful, or irregular.
If you’re sexually active (meaning you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex), you may talk about birth control or testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
You can talk to your provider about healthy relationships and other parts of your emotional health.
If you’re under 18, you may get some shots, like the HPV vaccine, as well.
At age 21, you’ll start needing periodic Pap tests (to screen for cervical cancer) and breast examinations.
And as you get older, or as your health changes, your Annual Visits may include other tests and referrals for mammograms or other health screenings.
How should I prepare for my Annual Visit?
- Go on a day when you don’t have your period, or it’s at least fairly light – unless you have a bleeding problem that your health care provider wants to see.
- Make a list of the questions you want to ask. You might want to write them down so it’s easier to remember during your appointment.
- Ask if you can have a friend or parent in the room with you if that would make you feel more comfortable.
What kinds of questions will they ask me?
First, your provider will ask about your medical history and your family’s medical history. This may include questions about what your periods are like, what your relationships are like, what your pregnancy plans are, or if you’re having any symptoms you’re concerned about. 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.
Your provider 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 provider you trust and can be open with. So if you’re not comfortable being 100% honest with your current provider, think about switching to someone else.
Will I need to have any tests?
It depends. Pap tests happen about every three years, although some people may need them more frequently — your health care provider can tell you how often you should have them. If you have abnormal bleeding, itching, foul odor, or any kind of pain or swelling, your provider might want to run some tests. If you’ve had sex, it’s important to get tested for STIs. Or you may not need any tests at all.
What happens during a Pap test?
During a Pap test, your health care provider inserts a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. The speculum is opened to separate the walls of the vagina so that the cervix can be seen. The health care provider then uses a small sampler — a spatula or tiny brush — to gently collect cells from the cervix. The cells are sent to the laboratory to be tested.