Your first gynecologist appointment or OB visit can be a scary date on your calendar. But as with many nerve-racking events, the more information you have, the easier it will be to get through. Prepare yourself by learning about the information you might need to have handy as well as what to expect from a physical exam and, if needed, a vaginal exam.

"This is the first experience for young women, and you want it to be a good experience because you want women to embrace this over their lifetime," says Maria Trent, MD, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.

What to Expect at a Gynecologist Appointment 
When you arrive at the doctor's office for the OB visit, you will most likely start by filling out paperwork about yourself for the staff and doctor. Later, the nurse who takes you back to the exam room might ask some of the same questions. Remember, all your answers are confidential. That means they cannot be shared with anyone unless you give permission.
The paperwork you fill out and the discussion with the nurse or doctor could include the following questions:
  • Why you scheduled the gynecologist appointment
  • Your family health history
  • Your personal health history
  • Medications, vitamins, or supplements you are taking
  • Any surgery you've had
  • Whether you are sexually active
  • Your age when you started having menstrual periods and when your most recent period occurred
  • Whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs
  • The name of your primary care doctor or family doctor
  • The name and contact information of someone to call in case of an emergency
If your parents or someone who has known you and your family a long time isn't going to be with you to fill out this paperwork, you might want to do some research ahead of time and ask about health history, both yours and your family's. Find out if close relatives have had heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, or other types of chronic conditions, such as diabetes. (If you are going by yourself to the doctor, make sure that you also have any needed information about your family's health insurance, co-pays, or payment plans.)

At your OB visit, you'll probably spend time with a nurse first and then with an ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist), a doctor who specializes in the care of a woman's reproductive system, including vagina and uterus as well as the breasts (the gynecologist part) and who monitors pregnancies and delivers babies (the obstetrician part). An ob-gyn cares for a woman throughout her lifespan, starting with the first appointment. Dr. Trent points out that your pediatrician or family doctor might also be able to perform your first gynecological exam.

Your first appointment will probably include a discussion with the nurse and the doctor about your health and any concerns you might have. This is a good time for you to ask them what to expect from the exams - the physical exam and, if you agree to it and need it, the pelvic and vaginal exam. These exams might include testing for sexually transmitted diseases if you are sexually active.

About OB Visit Exams 
From the patient's point of view, the most worrisome part of a gynecologist appointment is usually the physical exams. You might be asked to take off your clothes and wear a special robe or gown. A nurse will probably be present in the room during the exams. You can ask for a friend or relative to be with you, too. Girls often bring their mother with them, sometimes to hold hands with, during the exam, Trent says.

There are several basic exams that you might have during an OB visit:
  • Physical exam. The nurse will take your weight, pulse, and blood pressure. If you have other health concerns, the doctor might address them at this time.
  • Breast exam. The doctor may do an exam of your breasts. You may be asked to raise and lower your arms as the doctor gently palpates your breast tissue and nipples.
  • External genital exam. The doctor may ask you to lie down and put your legs up in special stirrups and look at the outside of your genital area to determine that you've gone through puberty and that your development is normal, explains Trent.
  • Pelvic exam. This exam might not be part of your first gynecologist appointment, particularly if you are not sexually active. In a pelvic exam, the doctor will look inside your vagina using an instrument called a speculum. She might also use long cotton swabs to collect samples of cells and mucus to test for infection and as part of a Pap smear, a test for cervical cancer. After she removes the speculum, she might check the position of your uterus, vagina, and ovaries with her gloved hands.
A Time for Your Questions 
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls have their first visit between the ages of 13 and 15. One of the best reasons to meet with your ob-gyn is to ask any questions you have about your body and your sexual and reproductive health.

During this visit, ask about the exams and tests you will have done and who will call you with the results. "How can I keep myself healthy before I see you again?" is another important question. "No question is inappropriate, no question is stupid," says Trent, who adds that questions about menstruation are among the most commonly asked.

Going to your first gynecologist appointment may give you butterflies, but starting a habit that provides a foundation for a lifetime of health is one of the smartest steps a young woman can take.