Getting an annual pelvic exam can understandably make many women feel anxious. Between the anticipation of physical pain, harsh lighting, a cold room, and an awkward paper gown, the process doesn’t exactly inspire a feeling of comfort.

However, your annual well-woman exam is crucial for achieving optimal health. Not only will it help you in being proactive with your family-planning endeavors, but it will also help you catch any medical conditions you may have. As such, it’s important not to avoid or skip it.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Even if you’re fully cognizant of the exam’s importance, it can be difficult to navigate through the anxiety. Below are some tips that can help you feel more at ease during your annual exam.

1. Talk to Your Gynecologist About Your Anxieties.

Remember that your doctor is on your side and trained to provide you with optimal comfort throughout all phases of the exam. When you discuss your anxieties with your gynecologist, you become your own advocate. Furthermore, anxiety about pelvic exams can sometimes be indicative of certain vaginal conditions, such as vaginismus, which is when the vaginal muscles tighten or spasm painfully in anticipation of penetration.

During this conversation, you can also make requests for a specific type of speculum. Speculums come in different lengths and diameters, so you can request one that is at a size that’s comfortable for you.

2. Get to Know Your Body.

When it comes to conquering anxiety over your annual exam, knowledge is power. Become an empowered patient and educate yourself on the vagina’s anatomy and functions. To be really thorough, you can look up diagrams of vaginas and then use a mirror to examine your own.

3. Come Up With Relaxation Methods to Help You Cope.

If you’re still nervous, that’s OK. To make it easier, utilize one or more relaxation techniques to help ease your body’s tension and distract your mind. Some common techniques include controlled and intentional breathing or progressive muscle relaxation exercises. If you’re in dire need of a distraction, ask your gynecologist if they’d be OK with you listening to music during your exam.

While getting your annual well-woman exam can be nerve-racking, it’s a really important element of a healthy lifestyle and shouldn’t be skipped. Luckily, there are things you can do to make it a little easier.

If you’re due for an annual exam, please request an appointment with PGOMG here.