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I've never been to a gynecologist or talked to any doctor about my female bits. I'm super scared and have no idea where to go or how to choose a good doctor. Every story I've heard about Planned Parenthood is terrifying, and my usual doctor is religiously affiliated. What's a girl to do?
Sarah: Who are you hearing these stories from, your local “Crisis Pregnancy Center” radio hour? Planned Parenthood rocks, and everyone who works there is incredibly well-qualified. I think the best way to find a good gyno is to simply ask around! Women who love their OB/GYN will shout it from the rooftops, and you should make a point to talk to your female friends about it, specifically about why they love their doc—do they explain things well, are they easy to talk to, etc. It’s also pretty normal to want a female doc for your first rodeo on those cold steel stirrups, and it’s OK to ask for that. Definitely let them know that it’s your first visit, and write down whatever questions you have in the days before the appointment, because nothing makes the mind go blank like being asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” by a person in a white coat.
Debby: I’m not sure who you’ve been talking to about Planned Parenthood, but they often have outstanding healthcare for women (and, in some clinics, men too). When I was younger and had very little money, it was where I found affordable and (very) high quality healthcare. In the Indianapolis area, there is a wonderful women’s health nurse practitioner named Cara who works at various Planned Parenthood clinics in the area and she is incredibly smart, kind, compassionate, caring and committed to helping women understand their bodies. Wherever you decide to go, let your healthcare provider know that it’s your first gyn exam and that you’re nervous. That may signal to her or him that you could use a little extra time and a caring attitude (in fact, let the scheduler know this too and see if you can get a time slot likely to have more time to chat in it). You can learn more about what gyn exams often entail on Planned Parenthood’s website. You can also find a whole chapter about gyn exams and vaginal and vulvar health issues in the book I wrote with Dr. Vanessa Schick, Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva. We cover everything from intake to those lovely paper or cloth gowns providers have women wear to gyn exams, Pap tests, breast exams, and more. It’s really not so terrible and, in fact, I honestly look forward to my annual exam each year because it’s a chance to ask questions and make sure everything is A-okay.