What To Expect At a Women’s Wellness Visit

Neeru Singh M.D.
January 14, 2021
4 min read

Your regular women’s wellness visit is an important aspect of your overall healthcare. It’s a full check-up — usually once a year — separate from any other physical exam or appointment to address injury or illness. We want to be sure you’re feeling empowered to make it a regular part of your preventive plan and something you’re ready to tackle annually.

This is the wellness visit you’ve likely heard referred to as an annual exam, pelvic exam, pap, or gynecology visit. Yep, that’s the one. If you have a uterus, vulva, and breasts, it’s important to get this one on your calendar (and checked off your to-do list).

It’s important not to push these appointments to the wayside. Not only can your healthcare provider help you make informed decisions about your sexual and reproductive health, but it’s a time to screen for cancers and other diseases.

What to expect at women’s wellness visit:

Each women’s wellness visit is a little different depending on age, sexual history, and medical history. What doesn’t change? Being able to have an open, supportive conversation with your care provider so you can stay informed and make decisions for your best health.

  • If you’re under 18, you can discuss any concerns you have about your period, talk to your provider about and potentially choose to get the HPV vaccine. You can get the HPV vaccine up to age 26 so be sure to talk to your provider about options. If you’re sexually active, learn about birth control options and testing for sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • Once you’re 21 years old, your provider will perform an annual pelvic exam and pap test. To conduct a pap smear (“pap” for short), your provider will use a plastic or metal instrument called a speculum to widen the vagina so they can examine the vagina and cervix. Then they use a cotton-like swab to collect a few cells from the cervix and surrounding area. The whole thing lasts just a few minutes and is only mildly uncomfortable and it’s an effective way to test for and address any abnormal cell growth. Haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine? Talk to your provider about getting it before you turn 26.
  • At about 25, your care provider will add a clinical breast exam to this visit to check for any abnormalities or concerns in your breast tissue. This too is a very short exam and can be a crucial complement to your regular at-home self-checks. You are still eligible to get the HPV vaccine so be sure to talk to your provider if you haven’t gotten it yet.
  • When you’re 40 and older, you’ll also get a regular (usually once every year or two) mammogram. Sometimes this is a part of your wellness visit. Other times your physician will schedule this exam separately.

Questions your physician might ask during your wellness visit:

  • When was your last period?
  • How long do your periods last, and how often do you get them?
  • Do you ever bleed/spot between periods?
  • Do you have any unusual pain, itching, or discharge from your vagina/vulva?
  • Do you have any medical conditions, and are you aware of any medical conditions in your family?
  • Are you sexually active? If so, do you have sex with men, women, or both?
  • Do you think you are pregnant?
  • Do you want to get pregnant?

We encourage you to ask any questions that are on your mind during this exam. While you’re on the table, nothing is off the table. Should this hurt? Should that smell? Should I get checked for this STD?

Do: Have an open conversation with your provider about how you’re feeling emotionally. Be open about whether or not you’re sexually active. Share your concerns about anything that feels abnormal. Your provider is here for you through your wellness journey, and they can provide the best care possible when you’re an open book.

Do: Make an appointment to check in with your provider even if you have breasts and/or a vagina, but you don’t identify as a woman. We’re here for your holistic health, and provide a safe place to ensure your individual care.

Don’t: Don’t blow off these appointments. They’re usually quick and painless. Plus, it’s empowering to know you’re giving your body the attention it deserves.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Neeru Singh M.D.

Neeru Singh, MD, is a Medical Director at Carbon Health. As a primary care physician, she enjoys educating and guiding patients on important health decisions.

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