Gynecology Exam FAQs

Answers from Grand Rapid’s Leading Gynecologist

Dr. Stephen Dalm is a highly trained OB/GYN with extensive experience providing routine gynecologic care to women throughout the Grand Rapids area. He has provided this list of frequently asked questions to help patients better understand the purpose of an annual gynecologic exam and how to ensure your OB/GYN has all the information they need in order to provide optimal care. Call (616) 247-1700 to schedule an appointment at our OB/GYN office in Grand Rapids today!

What is a yearly exam?

Your yearly exam visit is all about you, your body, and your reproductive health. Yearly exams are also called gynecological exams, well-woman visits, pelvic exams, or annual exams. If you have a vulva, breasts, or a uterus, these visits are an important part of taking care of your health (no matter what your gender identity is).  Yearly exams are still encouraged for those patients who have had hysterectomies or who are intersex. This is a preventive visit. The goal of the visit is to check your general sexual health and discover or identify any possible issues before they become bigger problems.

What happens during a yearly exam visit?

What happens during your yearly exam depends on a few things, like how old you are, your sexual history, and medical history.

It’s a good idea to have your first yearly exam around age of your first menstrual cycle or when you become sexually active. It may just be a talk with your provider plus a regular physical exam. Your provider will check your height, weight and blood pressure.

If you’re under 18, you may get some shots, like the HPV vaccine.

If you’re sexually active (meaning you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex), you may talk about birth control or STD testing.

Around age 21, you’ll start needing regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations. And as you get older, or as your health changes, your yearly visits will include other tests and referrals for mammograms.

Have breasts and/or a vagina but don’t identify as a woman? It’s still a good idea to have these kinds of check-ups with your provider, along with any trans care you’re receiving.

What kinds of questions will they ask me?

First, your provider will ask about your medical history and your family’s medical history. These questions help them give you the care that’s right for you, so try to be as honest and as complete as you can. They’ll ask you questions like:

When was your last period?
How often do you have periods?
How long do they last?
Do you ever bleed/spot between periods?
Do you have any unusual pain, itching, or discharge from your vagina or vulva?
Do you have any other medical conditions?
What medical problems do other members of your family have?
Are you sexually active? (In other words: have you ever had vaginal, anal, or oral sex?)
Do you have sex with men, women, or both?
Are you using birth control?
Do you think you might be pregnant?
Do you want to get pregnant?
What do you do to prevent STDs?

Your provider may also ask you about alcohol or other drug use, allergies, illnesses, infections, smoking, and any surgery you might have had. All these things can affect your reproductive health, so be honest.

What is NOT covered in a yearly exam visit?

Health plans only cover specific preventive services during your yearly exam.  Any new or unstable chronic conditions that are discussed during your yearly exam are not covered as part of a yearly exam and we will suggest making an appointment to discuss these further.

Examples of conditions that are not covered by a yearly exam:

Pelvic pain
Irregular periods
Changes in libido
Changes in medication dosage
Diagnostic blood testing

Healthcare providers are required by law to adhere to established guidelines for all visits.  Contact your health insurance provider prior to any visit if you have questions about coverage.  Any changes may be your responsibility, depending on your health insurance benefits.

It’s important to have a provider you trust and can be open with. So if you’re not comfortable being 100% honest with your current provider, think about switching to someone else.