Doctor visits seem to be among the least favored tasks on people’s to-do lists. The dreadful yearly (or bi-yearly) gynecologist check-up is one appointment in particular that leaves many women slightly squeamish at the mere thought of it. Although most of us are never ecstatic about our annual trips to the “gyno”, it is one of the most essential actions that we can take in being proactive about our sexual health.

While we may be somewhat apprehensive about these visits, it doesn’t mean that we should not take full advantage of them. I mean they do only come around once a year (or every other year). Here’s how to not only maximize your next gynecological visit, but to leave with the peace of knowing that all is well in regard to your sexual and reproductive health.

Pap Smear
The Pap test doesn’t really have to be requested. It is the main test that is administered during a regular gynecologist’s check-up. This test examines cells of the cervix for any changes that may be indicative of any problems. It is most helpful in detecting early cancer cells and can also pick up on some strains of HPV that may be present. This exam does not test for STDs.

STD Testing
Many women make the mistake of assuming that a negative Pap test equates with a negative STD test. This is not true. Most doctors will not take the initiative to test you for sexually transmitted diseases without your request and consent. If you are sexually active and would like to be examined for STDs, you should specifically request to be tested. Testing for these diseases are normally conducted by taking blood samples, urine samples, tissue samples and/or discharge samples, and sometimes saliva samples.

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