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Going to the Gynecologist 101

When to See Your Ob / Gyn


Updated June 19, 2014

Have you ever been to an obstetrician/gynecologist or Ob/Gyn for a pelvic exam and Pap test? If your answer is "no" and you are 21 or older, pick up your phone today and make an appointment with your doctor or a family planning clinic in your area. On the other hand, if your answer is "yes," then how long has it been since your last Pap smear and pelvic exam? All women should have annual Pap smears beginning at age 21, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women 21 to 29 should get a Pap every year, then every other year (or as often as your doctor recommends) from ages 30 to 64.

See: How To Prepare For Your Pap Smear

When Do Women Need Pelvic Exams?

Teenage girls should see an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 to 15. While pelvic exams are rarely required during this first visit, this visit helps to establish a relationship with the doctor of your choice and to go over your medical and sexual history (even if you have not had sexual intercourse.) This is a good time to ask questions about sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.

Should I Be Tested For STDs?

You should always see your gynecologist if you experience:

While a yearly Pap smear is not, in most cases, necessary after age 30, all women still require an annual pelvic exam to check for any other changes or infections. If you've had an HPV test that was negative that doesn't mean you don't need to have a yearly pelvic exam. The ACOG established these guidelines with full knowledge that HPV causes cervical cancer.

Did you know that with each new sexual partner your risk of getting HPV increases by 15 percent? This means that having multiple sex partners raises your risk of HPV substantially. According to the ACOG guidelines for Pap testing women diagnosed with HIV or other diseases or conditions that lower immunity should continue having annual Pap smears after age 30.

Fact: The greatest single reason for the occurrence of cervical cancer is not having Pap smears according to recommended guidelines.

The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear in five or more years. Sadly, these women are usually at an advanced stage of cancer when they receive diagnosis.

Next: Other Times to See Your Gynecologist

Tracee Cornforth
About.com Women's Health

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