You likely have many questions about your visit to the gynecologist, including “should I shave before going to the gynecologist?” As a women’s health doctor, I understand the trepidation… you’re probably not used to stripping naked in front of a near-stranger. Even after years of visits, the experience can leave you feeling self-conscious. Not to worry. My recent contribution to Insider’s “6 Myths About Going to the Gynecologist that You Need to Stop Believing” left me wanting to share more advice for your most intimate doctor’s visits.
Should I shave before going to the gynecologist?
There’s no need to groom for your doctor — It’s not uncommon for a patient to apologize for her unshaved legs or pubic hair grooming habits or body appearance when lying on the table. Rest assured, there’s never a reason to apologize. Your doctor is not passing judgment. Pubic hair actually serves a purpose and waxing can introduce small cuts that can lead to infection. Your gynecologist is the last person to be impressed by a Brazilian Wax.
Do I need to cancel my appointment if I’m on my period?
Of course this all depends on where you’re at in your cycle, how heavy your bleeding is, and why you’re visiting the doctor. If you’re going for a pap and your flow is light — for instance if you’ve just started or are at about the end of your period — your doctor can likely get what he/she needs to submit a pap test. If you’re not sure, call your doctor’s office to discuss how best to proceed.
Do STD screenings automatically come with pap tests?
Surprisingly, many women think a pap test also screens for common infections, including STDs, but this is not true. While some medical providers automatically test women for common infections, this is not the rule. Speak up if you’d like to be tested or if you’ve noticed new or different discharge, odor, or are experiencing any pelvic discomfort.
I’ve been vaccinated against HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Can I skip my pap test?
No. If you’ve been tested and are negative for the HPV virus then you can likely go for a longer time between your paps, but the vaccine, while 70% effective, isn’t 100% effective. Follow your doctor’s advice.
“Cervical Cancer screenings are for heterosexual, sexually active women” — Again, not true! Cervical Cancer screenings are for anyone with a cervix under age 65, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Most cancers are caused by persistent infection with HPV which can be passed through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area.
Remember, your healthcare provider has only your best interests at heart. Banish your grooming insecurities and — more importantly — ask any questions that pertain to your health next time you see your gynecologist, and call beforehand in regards to visit specifics.
Meet Dr. Savita Ginde
Dr. Savita Ginde is an advocate and thought leader for reproductive health and served as Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for over 13 years. And, until very recently, she served as the Chief Healthcare Officer for STRIDE Community Health Center where she oversaw all of STRIDE’s healthcare services and led their COVID-19 vaccination efforts.