It doesn’t matter if it’s your first pelvic exam or if you’ve been consistent in your regular exams — going to the obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) can sometimes feel a bit awkward.
While it’s perfectly natural to feel awkward, it’s critical that you not let that stand in your way of going to your OBGYN appointment. Missing appointments means that you don’t get the care you need, like a sexually transmitted infection (STI) test or a Pap smear to detect early signs of cervical cancer.
The same goes for being completely open and honest with your OBGYN. The more information they have — such as whether or not you’re sexually active — the more tools they have to provide the best type of care for your specific needs.
Also read: 7 Routine Exams For Women
This might seem a little easier said than done. So, here are 7 tips to help you feel a bit less awkward at the OBGYN:
1. Find Out What to Expect Before Your OBGYN Appointment
Feelings of awkwardness could stem from finding yourself in a situation that you’re not prepared for. While you might not be able to prepare for absolutely everything, you can do a little homework to get an idea of what’s coming.
Have a list of questions prepared to ask your doctor during the appointment.
Talk to friends and family members who have recently been to similar appointments to learn about their experiences.
If you require certain accommodations, such as a translator, let the office know prior to your appointment, so arrangements can be made.
If something unexpected occurs, such as your monthly cycle, call the office before canceling your appointment.
Also, make a list of questions you want to ask ahead of time. If you already have planned out what you want to ask, the conversation might feel a lot less forced and not seem like you’re being put on the spot.
Pro tip: Write down the questions. If you keep them in your head, you might forget an important one.
Also read: Preparing for Your First Pap Smear
2. Make Yourself Physically Comfortable
In addition to awkwardness, you might also be worried about an exam being painful. That is a perfectly normal and understandable fear. But while exams shouldn’t cause pain, they can cause pressure and be uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize discomfort.
If you’re having a procedure, ask if taking pain medication, such as ibuprofen, prior to your appointment is recommended
Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing
Distract yourself (e.g., listening to music)
Tell your provider that you’re nervous about pain
Let your provider know if it’s your first pelvic exam
Empty your bladder before the exam (unless otherwise instructed or a urine sample is required first)
3. Go to Your Regular Appointments
Even if it’s awkward at first, keep up with your appointments. The more you see your provider, the more you can get to know them and build a relationship. Once that happens, talking with your OBGYN about issues you’re experiencing might not seem much different than talking with a friend.
4. Bring Someone With You
Have your partner or a friend tag along. They don’t need to come into the exam room with you if you don’t want them to or if your OBGYN’s practice doesn’t allow it. But even knowing that you have a friendly face to greet you in the waiting room after the appointment can make the experience feel more normal.
If you have time, plan something to do with them right after — even just grabbing a cup of coffee — can help normalize the experience and give you something to look forward to.
5. Go Right Out and Tell Your OBGYN That You’re Feeling Awkward or Uncomfortable
Telling your OBGYN that you’re feeling awkward might seem even more awkward. However, getting it out in the open can go a long way toward becoming more comfortable. Your provider may have methods for making things easier, whether you’re feeling physically uncomfortable or emotionally awkward.
6. Remember — This Isn’t Your OBGYN’s First Rodeo
If you have a question — even one that seems like the most embarrassing thing you could possibly ask (it isn’t) — chances are that your OBGYN has heard it before. In fact, what you find embarrassing might be simply part of your provider’s everyday conversations.
7. If You’re Still Uncomfortable, Look for a New Provider
In some cases, your provider might just not be the best fit. And that’s okay. You deserve an OBGYN who you genuinely trust and who makes you feel comfortable.
And No Matter What …
Remember that your provider is never there to judge you. Their number one goal is to keep you healthy and safe.