A gynaecologist is a specialist who looks after a woman's reproductive health. Your family doctor or GP is there to help with period problems or can prescribe contraceptives if you plan to become sexually active. Municipal health clinics provide a reproductive health service by trained nursing sisters and midwives. These clinics also have doctors when they're needed and women are sent to the local hospital if they have medical problems that can't be dealt with at the clinic. The services of municipal clinics are free.
You only need to go to a gynaecologist when you're planning to get pregnant, when you are pregnant, when you have a problem with your 'lady parts', or if:
- You have not started your period by the age of 16
- Your periods are extremely painful
- Your periods are extremely long and/ or heavy
- You have 'spotting' between periods
- You are bleeding often during the month
- You experience pelvic pain all or most of the time
- There is a family history of gynaecological problems
- You have a smelly discharge (even if you've not had sex yet)
- You have a discharge after having sex
- You plan to have sex (then your partner should go with you and also be checked)
You can also see your family doctor, GP or local clinic if you have any of these problems.
Midwives are nurses who specialise in helping pregnant women. They are qualified to deliver babies and help women to recover after the birth.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT THE GYNAECOLIST, CLINIC OR DOCTOR?
You should visit a gynaecologist, clinic or doctor BEFORE you become sexually active. Once you are sexually active you will be given regular appointments. It is important not to miss these appointments, especially if:
- You have a smelly, frothy, green, yellow, white and/or itchy discharge
- Your periods stop or you 'spot' between periods or your periods don't stop at all
- You have any discomfort or pain
Women choose a gynaecologist they are comfortable to go to, usually from the time she is married and has her first baby. Going to the same gynaecologist means that they know your medical history and understand you. Women learn to trust and even confide in their gynaecologist.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE GYNAECOLIST, CLINIC OR DOCTOR?
If you are still a virgin, unless there is a medical reason why you should have a vaginal examination, there is no need to do one.
You will be asked questions about your background and childhood illnesses, or any operations that you have had.
You will be given blood tests to check if you have any infections. If you plan to start having sex, you will have the option of having an HIV test. Your partner should also have an HIV test and blood tests for other Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections before you start having sex.
Your breasts will be examined for lumps.
If you plan on becoming sexually active, a contraceptive choice will be discussed. The choice you make should be based on understanding how contraceptives work, how to use them, and understanding and accepting the consequences of using them.
- If you use the injection, you must return for regular repeat injections. It should be explained why your periods will change once you start having the injections.
- If you use the pill, you must not miss a single day of taking a pill, because this could result in a pregnancy.
- You will be given a supply of condoms to use every time you have sex.
- You will be given a return date.
At every appointment, your blood pressure will be taken and your urine tested. It's wise to keep a record of your periods, moods, appetite and weight while you are taking contraceptives.