Chances are, no. Showering with water and a gentle washcloth is great before an exam. If you use soap, make sure it's gentle, without perfume, and rinse, rinse, rinse. Bubble baths are for cheesy daytime TV stars only. Perfumes and douches only make the smell worse (yes, it's true). Your normal bacteria prevent you from having infections and odors. Bacteria are your friends.
If you do have an odor that worries you, tell your gynecologist. They will do a simple test using a microscope to see if you have a bacterial overgrowth. Your gyno's nose is actually closer to your feet than your vagina. Which brings me to the next question.
2. What if my feet stink?
Your gyno will love you if you throw on a pair of clean socks before you get up into the stirrups. ("Stirrups," seriously! We are not horses! These names were clearly created by menfolk.)
3. OMG! I have my period! This is gross! Should I cancel my appointment?
Just remember, your gyno is not afraid of blood (in general, gynos are surgeons and deliver babies; it's a bloody sport). If your bleeding is very heavy, call the office to ask the nurse. The newest Pap smears are not affected by the presence of blood. Feel free to leave your tampon in while you talk to your doc and then ask them to step out while you remove it. Trust me, you are not alone.
If a gyno thought the female body was gross, they would have become a dentist.
4. I'm worried the nurse or doctor will judge my naked body.
I think there may be two women on the planet who think they have a perfect body. Your nurse or gyno is likely not one of the two (I have yet to meet a supermodel who went to med school). Your gyno is way too concerned about asking/answering your questions and providing good care. Besides, they've already seen 32 other imperfect naked bodies this week. If a gyno thought the female body was gross, they would have become a dentist.
5. What if I forgot to shave my legs?
Forget about it, this is the last thing your gyno cares about. Trust me, they're concentrated on your uterus, ovaries, breasts, STDs and birth control. No offense—I'm sure you have great gams.
6. What if I wax/shave/don't shave/pierce/don't pierce my bits and pieces?
Fashion comes and goes. Landing strips, lightning bolts, nudie style—I think I've seen it all. If you do shave, use a new razor and shave with the direction of the hair growth to avoid bumps/ingrown hairs/ugly infections. If you prefer the longer-haired look, you may want to slightly trim with some blunt scissors to avoid having the yucky sensation of your hair being pulled by the speculum.
7. What is the deal with the speculum? What is it? It looks like a clamp! Why do you use it? Should I ask for metal or plastic? What if my vagina is too big/small/short/long? Can't someone invent something else? Will it hurt? What if it pinches?
The speculum is not a clamp. It is used to open the vagina in order for your gyno to see your cervix and the walls of your vagina to check for infections, growths or cancer. The speculum should not pinch—if it does, speak up!
If you are going to have a Pap smear, your doctor uses a little brush to get cells from your cervix. This is the best method to screen for cervical cancer. Your gyno may also test for certain sexually transmitted infections and bacterial overgrowths using a cotton swab. Neither the brush nor the swab should hurt. If it does, tell your doctor.
Plastic vs. metal: In general, they both work the same. Your gyno may have a preference. The plastic is not recycled and ends up in landfills. The metal is sterilized between each patient. Every doctor's office is monitored for safety standards regarding sterilization (OSHA). Sizing: In general, metal speculums come in more sizes and shapes than plastic ones. The gynecologist's office should have at least five different sizes available.
It's unlikely anything will replace the speculum. However, your doctor can put some lubricant on the end of the speculum to make it more comfortable for you.
8. What if I fart during the exam?
Say, "Excuse me." Honestly, I've been a gyno for 15 years and this has only happened to me once or twice.
First of all, leaking urine is common and is fairly easy to treat.
9. Ever since I've had my baby, I pee my pants if I laugh/jump/cough/sneeze. I'm too embarrassed to say anything.
First of all, leaking urine is common and is fairly easy to treat. Tell your doctor about it, she or he can probably help.
10. What's up with my vaginal discharge?
It is normal to have a small amount of clear to white vaginal discharge on your underwear. Your vagina is actually self-cleaning. If you need to wear a pantyliner, or the discharge has a strong odor, is green or bloody, you need to be seen by your gyno right away.
11. What is my gyno checking when they check my insides with their hands?
Whoa, that sounds gross, doesn't it? The "bimanual exam" checks for growths or abnormalities of your uterus or ovaries.
12. I hate my birth control but I'm afraid to disappoint my gyno because she recommended it. Sometimes I even don't take it/use it.
OK, there are like 50 different birth control pills available, plus other very safe methods like IUDs, diaphragms, shots, etc., so absolutely talk to your doctor about the best choice for you! Most insurances cover the cost of birth control.
Despite popular rumors, IUDs (intrauterine device) DO NOT cause miscarriages, abortions or infections. Newer IUDs are more effective than most other forms of birth control pills, have been used for decades and are loved by many women. An IUD is a reversible (you can become pregnant once it is removed) form of birth control that contains little or no hormones. Even women who haven't had a baby yet can get an IUD.
13. Is it OK to ask about sex? I have no sex drive. I don't think I've ever had an orgasm.
Two things: One, yes, you should ask about it. Sex is important. Two, expect your gyno to ask you to make a follow-up appointment to sit down and really talk about this. It's a pretty complex topic and your gyno wants to do a good job by giving you extra time.
Just don't expect your gyno to allow that person to look between your legs.
14. Can I bring my partner/mom/friend/milkman to the appointment?
Sure, but expect the nurse to ask your buddy to leave while you talk to your gyno. If you want that person to be in the room for the exam, speak up. Just don't expect your gyno to allow that person to look between your legs. That would be a bit awkward for everyone.
15. I'm in a bad relationship. My partner abuses me with words or fists. I've been forced to have sex against my will. I'm so afraid to talk about it. What if anyone finds out?
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell your doctor! Your gynecologist is specially trained to help you with this problem.
There you have it! Any questions we've missed? Let us know in the comments!