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How and when should I schedule my first gynecology appointment?
On top of screening for potential health problems and addressing any health concerns you are having, your first gynecology appointment can also act as a safe space for asking questions and learning about healthy habits.
Here’s some information on what you can expect from your first visit and how you can schedule it:
When and why should I schedule my first gynecology appointment?
Although most people won’t need to begin Pap screening for cervical cancer until around the age of 21, it is still recommended that you attend your first gynecologist visit earlier, usually between the ages of 13 and 16, regardless of whether you have started your transition, menstruating or are sexually active. There is no need to worry if you have missed this time window, but you should still consider scheduling your first visit.
If you are looking for LGBTQ+ friendly service providers, Rainbow Health Ontario has compiled a list of health providers that have committed to providing competent and welcoming care to LGBT2SQ people in Ontario.
Your first appointment is an excellent opportunity to talk about your development and ask any and all questions about your changing body and sexual health without any feelings of embarrassment. Your doctor has an obligation to provide care in a way that respects the rights, autonomy, dignity and diversity of all patients, including you as a person seeking care. Your doctor can also provide information about healthy habits and risk prevention.
You can think of this visit as your first step in a lifetime of healthy habits. Here are a few things your gynecologist can do for you:
- Provide a safe space for answering any questions you have about reproductive and sexual health or hormonal changes and puberty
- General checkups and screening for potential health problems, like cervical or breast cancer
- Address and treat health concerns you may have, like worries about your period, abnormal discharge or discomfort and pain. Some level of cramping and discomfort is normal during your period, but it’s important to know that severe cramps and pain are not, and can be a symptom of common manageable conditions. You may find it intimidating to talk to your healthcare provider about pain symptoms that aren’t easy to quantify. However, those discussions are very important to have. Some of the possible causes for painful cramps - like endometriosis or fibroids - often get ignored even when they impact your day to day quality of life.
- Prescribe birth control, whether it is to help prevent pregnancy or to address any health issues you are experiencing, like menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts or even acne.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) testing
How do I schedule my gynecology appointment?
You have a few options when it comes to choosing who performs your gynecologic exam.
Visiting your family doctor
It isn’t always necessary to see a gynecologist or OB-GYN: your family doctor (also called a General Practitioner or GP) is well equipped to provide the necessary care for many concerns about your sexual and reproductive health. They should be able to provide birth control counselling, STI screening and internal gynecology and breast exams.
If you do not yet have a family doctor, you can register with Health Care Connect. This program refers you to a local doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients.
Doctors at walk-in clinics are generally able to provide these services while you wait for a new doctor. They can often refer you to a specialist if needed.
Getting a referral to a gynecologist or OB-GYN
You can ask your family doctor to refer you to a gynecologist or an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN). An OB-GYN is a healthcare professional that specializes in female reproductive health and is trained both in obstetrics (everything related to pregnancy and childbirth) as well as gynecology (everything related to the female reproductive system). Midwives are also equipped to perform routine gynecology exams.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a woman.
Going to a sexual health clinic
Sexual health clinics are available in many Ontario communities, and are a great option especially if you feel uncomfortable reaching out to your family doctor.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to visit a sexual health clinic, and it isn’t necessary to bring anyone with you if you don’t want to.
For more information
- What can I expect from my first gynecology appointment – An article where we detail what you can expect before, during and after your first appointment.
- Sex & U – A website developed by the Society of Obstetricians Gynaecologists of Canada that provides accurate and up-to-date information and education on topics related to sexual and reproductive health.
- Young Women’s Gynecology Clinic – A clinic that provides medical care specifically for women aged 17 to 25. Check out their website to see which reproductive health concerns they provide care for, and keep in mind that they do not provide general checkups such as Pap smears.
- Rainbow Health Ontario - This program creates opportunities for the healthcare system to better serve LGBT2SQ communities. Its website includes a directory of health and social service providers who have expressed a commitment to providing competent and welcoming care to LGBT2SQ people in Ontario.
January 22, 2021