I remember being 13 years old and being told by my mother I had to see a gynecologist. It was a terrifying prospect for me at the time and I wailed and told her I was not going no matter what. I felt as if it was some sort of punishment. I hated going to the doctors and I was convinced it was going to be one of the worst things that ever happened to me (teenager logic). Then she let me know my doctor was a man, and I really flipped out.
Being an awkward 13-year-old girl, I didn’t want to talk or even think about vaginal health, but it was crucial for me to go to that appointment. I had suffered from heavy periods, horrible acne and I would even get these mystery hot flashes I couldn’t quite describe. So, in order to help me, my mom sent me to the gynecologist. I couldn’t see it at the time, but she was worried about me and wanted what was best. I reluctantly went to the appointment, though my heart rate was sky high, and it ended up going smoothly.
My doctor then informed me I had PCOS and I was put on medication that eventually relieved me of all my symptoms. Before going to the gynecologist, I had put up with so much. I thought my symptoms were normal for me and I told myself there was nothing I could do about it. But there was help for me. I no longer had to live uncomfortably. That is why it is so important to do what’s best for your health – even if it might be a little uncomfortable at first.
So, if you have a vagina, here are some reasons you should visit the gynecologist, too.
1. It can provide clarity.
You don’t have to be the victim of horrible symptoms to visit a gynecologist. You can simply go because you have some questions about how to care for down there. By having a specialized vaginal health professional by your side, the guessing game of, “Is this normal?” will be no more. You can simply ask your doctor the questions that have been brewing for a while and this can relieve you of any stress you may have had. Also, visiting the gynecologist can offer early detection if there is a sign of a problem. It is better to be on top of your vaginal health, instead of wandering in the dark. A professional will happily offer clarity for your questions, because hey, vaginas can be confusing.
2. If you've had sex.
If you are sexually active, you should definitely be seeing a gynecologist. It doesn’t matter if the sexual activity is oral, vaginal or anal. Any kind of sexual contact provides a reason to visit the gynecologist. I’m sure most people know this, but unprotected sexual activity can lead to a plethora of issues you don’t want to deal with. According to the American Sexual Health Association, one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25. This is alarming and could be avoided. By visiting and asking your gynecologist questions about safe sex, they can keep you from being a part of that frightening statistic. And if you do happen to have an STI, a gynecologist can certainly help rid you of the infection. It is important to never be ashamed or embarrassed if you are suffering from an STI, and to remember that a doctor is willing to help you.
3. If you're questioning something.
If you happen to notice something about your vagina that just doesn’t seem right to you, go see a gynecologist. It is extremely important to take your instincts seriously, because it may be something serious. It can also be completely harmless, but it is always a good idea to check it out anyway. The best thing to do when you're confused is to reach out for help. Never start self-diagnosing yourself, either. There were many times I had convinced myself I had something seriously wrong with me because of a worrisome Google search. If you are not a professional in vaginal health, don’t start diagnosing yourself.
4. If you have issues with your period.
This is a broad topic and it can mean an excess of different things. Issues with your time of the month can mean that you don’t have a time of the month. It can also include heavy flows, extreme cramping or, in my case, the weird mystery hot flashes. Periods affect every person differently, and if you find yourself missing out on life because of it, you should see a gynecologist. A gynecologist can prescribe medications to help you with the issues you're having and it can truly be life-changing. You have to know you don’t have to suffer and a solution can be out there.
5. A breast exam.
A gynecologist doesn’t just have knowledge about the vagina. They also give a breast exam upon your visit. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. This statistic is haunting, and it is so important to be aware of your breast health. The doctor will check for problem lumps, but it is common for some young women to have lumpiness. The doctor will be able to decipher problem lumps from a normal, healthy breast. After the exam, the doctor typically teaches the patient how to do a breast exam on their own. This is important because it will keep the patient informed and allows them to be more consistent when checking their own breast health.
6. You'll become closer to your body.
It is crucial to care for all aspects of your body. Most people tend to treat fitness and nutrition with great importance; which is essential and necessary. However, vaginal health seems to get left out of our healthy living checklist. By giving yourself a visit to the gynecologist, you will understand your body in a better way. Learning about your own anatomy and asking a professional questions about your health will instill a whole new appreciation. It may be hard to see our own vaginas in a positive light, but I think it's about time we start.
I find myself so grateful over my visit to the gynecologists. It was such a small step I had to make (thanks, mom) and it altered my health for the better. I no longer have painful, uncomfortable symptoms and I can live my life normally. Don't be held back by something you could find help for. Even if you're not struggling with any health issues, it's always a good idea to make an appointment regardless. Here's to staying healthy in 2018, friends!
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