So, you’re going to the gynecologist!
1. Use a mirror to follow along and learn what’s normal for you.
2. Doing pelvic muscle exercises beforehand can help make the exam more comfortable.
3. Skip sex the day before your exam.
4. Make sure your provider took the time to size your speculum.
5. Ask for posterior pressure before they open the speculum.
6. If you want, you can even ask to insert the speculum yourself.
7. Find an exam provider you trust.
8. Make sure you communicate openly with your provider.
9. Ask your provider to use language you feel comfortable with.
Is there specific language you'd like them to use or avoid? If you're trans or genderqueer, you can tell your provider what pronouns you prefer and what words you use to refer to your own genitalia so they can use the language you identify with. If you find certain words triggering ("relax" is one that can be a problem for many people), letting your provider know gives them the chance to help you.
10. Or, if you'd rather NOT have a conversation, tell them that.
11. Ask your provider to raise the back of the exam table.
12. Find a position that works for you.
13. Plan ahead so you're ready for your Pap test.
14. Make a note of important facts about your anatomy.
It's a good idea to ask what size speculum is best for you and what position your uterus is in, so you can tell other providers in the future. Your uterus may be anywhere from anteverted (top tilted toward your belly, cervix angled toward your back) to retroverted (tilted back). This is something you can tell a new provider that will really help them give you the best, most comfortable exam possible.
Ask your provider if there's anything else it would be useful for you to know about your anatomy; they can point out things that are normal for you, which you can use as a baseline when you perform self-exams.
15. Work with your provider to make a plan for your health, going forward.
Remember: This is your life, your body, and your exam. You’re in charge.
Whoever you are, whatever experiences you've had before, however you feel about this exam — it's OK. You get to be yourself and feel however you feel, and you get to expect your healthcare provider to respect that. You have the right to control the encounter, you have the right to say no to any part of the exam at any time, and you have the right to do whatever you need to do to feel good about yourself, your body, and your health.
Your body isn't a secret that only a doctor or a nurse can understand. With a little bit of knowledge and confidence, you, too, can be the boss of your own vagina.