I might have ovarian cysts: what will the gynecologist do to find out?

I am going to the gyno for the first time about cysts in my ovaries and I want to know if they will have to look inside me. Or do they just feel my abdomen?
Heather Corinna replies:

If it's suspected that you have ovarian cysts, your gynecologist will most likely want to give you a full pelvic exam, and it'd be wisest for them to do that. In the best interest of your reproductive health, you'll always want your healthcare provider to be as thorough as they can: you're at greater risk of being or becoming unwell when a doctor is not, not when they are.

Certainly, feeling your abdonimal area externally is part of that, but they'd usually also want to do a bimanual exam to really be able to feel your reproductive organs: that means feeling around your pelvis externally while also feeling internally with gloved, lubricated fingers. If they strongly suspect cysts, they may also want to do a pregnancy test (to be sure that's not why you're having the symptoms you are), and later schedule a pelvic ultrasound exam. They also may want to do some blood tests. if you've been sexually active in any way, they may also want to run an STI screening to be sure your symptoms aren't related to an infection.

That's nothing to get freaked out about. Of course, the first time you have an exam, not knowing what to expect, how it's going to go, or how to deal with someone looking at parts you may not be used to others looking at is likely going to make anyone nervous.

Here's what to expect with a pelvic exam -- Your First Gynecologist Visit. Understand that by all means, with your first exam, you should let your nurse and doctor know that it is your first. You can also ask them to be sure and explain what they are going to do as they are going to do it, though it'd be typical for them to do that, even for a more experienced patient. As they're doing the exam, please know that you can always ask your doctor to stop whatever they're doing at any given time if you become physically or emotionally uncomfortable.

If you're a minor and you feel better with a parent in with you, you can usually ask for that, and can also ask for a parent NOT to be present if you prefer that. All in all, your OB/GYN will likely make efforts to be sure that your first exam is as comfortable for you as possible. Remember that to an OB/GYN, there's nothing weird or shameful about looking at genitals or giving a genital exam; they're going to consider a patient's genitals in exactly the same objective, nonsexual way that a podiatrist would consider a patient's foot.

And if you're worried about pain or discomfort, most women -- myself included -- will generally agree that a trip to the dentist is usually more uncomfortable than a trip to the gynecologist. :)

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