At Clue we often receive requests for help from people who are nervous about going to the gynecologist because they are transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. In our previous blog post we gave some tips for finding a trans-friendly OB/GYN. Now we want to offer some advice for making the appointment as stress-free as possible.
If you feel nervous about going to see your OB/GYN, first take a moment to think about what can help you relax. This could include breathing exercises, eating a light meal, listening to music or other activities that have helped you in the past.
You might want to bring a friend or family member as a support person. They could travel to the appointment with you, accompany you in the waiting room and when you talk to reception staff, observe the doctor’s behavior and advocate for you if needed. If you want, you can ask them to take a note of any medication or tests that your OB/GYN recommends. Everyone’s needs are different, so discuss what types of support you want before, during and after your appointment.
Tell your doctor your pronouns and the names you prefer that they use for your body parts at the consultation. They should respect this, and if they don’t, you might want to find another physician. Your health is important, and you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
If you have a uterus and ovaries, your ob/gyn may want to check them with a pelvic exam. If you’re anxious about being examined, you can ask the doctor to talk you through the procedure first, while you still have your clothes on. Tell your doctor what they can do to help you to feel comfortable.
It’s important that your gynecologist checks for any irregularities of the cervix, uterus and ovaries if you have these parts. If you have a cervix you may also need a Pap test. The Pap test looks at cells from the cervix to see if there are any signs of cancer. Talk to your provider about when and how often you should get a Pap test done. If you have a vagina you should get checked for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDS) or vaginal infections.
Whether you have breasts or not, it’s important for the doctor to examine your chest. Breast cancer can affect people of any gender. Tell your doctor about any family history of breast cancer, and let them know if you have breast pain, lumps or any other changes that worry you.
If you menstruate, the doctor will probably ask you for the date of your last period. If you use Clue, you’ll have a handy record of this as well as other information like your average cycle length and period length. Now’s a great time to your doctor about pain, regularity, heaviness or any concerns you may have.
It can feel awkward, but there are many benefits to discussing your sexual function and behaviors with your gynecologist. Everyone is different, but some topics you might want to discuss include: Screening for STDs and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), getting vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis A and B, birth control and safer sex, problems with sexual function or satisfaction and plans to adopt or conceive children.
If you need any follow-up tests done, you can ask your provider to recommend an LGBTQIA-friendly specialist. Your OB/GYN should also let you know when you should come back for your next checkup.
After the appointment, you might want to de-stress by chatting with your support person, exercising or expressing yourself through art or music. Do what works for you. Celebrate the fact that you’ve taken an important step in caring for yourself and your health!
But don’t stop there. Educate yourself on gynecological health so you can be a better advocate for yourself and others. The book ‘Trans Bodies, Trans Selves’ is a comprehensive guide covering health, legal history, theory and more. Online, the LGBT Healthlink blog has lots of useful info, The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health offers educational materials and community links and Rad Remedy are publishing a free series of health guides related to trans and queer health.
Medical appointments like this can bring up feelings of gender dysphoria. If you are struggling or simply need someone to talk to, there are many places to turn: Trans Lifeline is a Crisis hotline in the US and Canada run by and for trans people, and Laura’s Playground is a support site for trans people with trained online counselors.
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Tracking your cycle in Clue can help you feel more prepared for your OB/GYN appointment, and more connected with your body. Download Clue here.