If you have never been tested for a Sexually Transmitted Disease / Infection (STD/STI), this article will help you prepare yourself for what to expect when you go for a check-up.
If you are about to embark on a sexual relationship with a new partner it is very important that you both get tested for STDs beforehand. Many STDs have little or no visible symptoms and you and/or your potential new partner may be harbouring an infection from a former encounter and not even be aware of it. STDs can be life-threatening (or at least life-changing) and should always be treated very seriously. Remember that when you have sex with a new partner you are both effectively having sex with every partner both of you have ever had – a sobering thought!
Alternatively, you may be having some symptoms that hint at the possibility of an STD and you decide to get checked out. Okay - so you’re nervous, right? You start thinking back to what you’ve been doing for the past year. You’re thinking back to when you met up with that girl at the bar or that hot guy at the club, in the heat of the moment you took him or her back to your place and had a one-nighter; or how about when you had that huge fight with your ex because she or he cheated on you, but you hooked up one last time. You ask yourself, did he use a condom when he was with that other girl or did she use protection when she cheated on me? Could that guy or girl that I was with for the one night stand have had anything and didn’t tell me?
Making the Appointment
You’re thinking of these things while making that phone call to have your sexual health check-up; you break a sweat and hang up. Put yourself out of your misery, pick up that phone, dial and make the appointment. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and it’s really not a big deal. The best thing to do is find out what, if anything, is wrong and then take charge of it. Now we’ll tell you what you can expect once you get to the doctor’s office and how you can make it through fairly painlessly!.
When You Get to the Clinic
Once you get to the doctor’s office you check in and fill out some paperwork. The paperwork asks for demographics like where you live, your age, birth date, and insurance information. They call your name and a nurse leads you to the examination room. They take your weight, then give you a cup and send you into the bathroom. Make sure that you use the little pre-packaged sanitary wipes provided to clean your private parts. This is to clean off all bacteria and obtain a clean sterile urine sample. After you leave the bathroom the nurse takes you into the room where the examination will be done. The nurse will then do the initial part of your examination, like taking your blood pressure, (which by now might be a little high), your pulse (your heart might feel like it is racing), ask you a few questions like, "When was your last period ?"(for women), and, "Any concerns you want the doctor to look at in particular?"
Once this is done, the nurse gives you a robe and then leaves the room. After you change, what happens next? You sit and wait some more. You look around the room; you see some magazines on the rack on the door so you pick one up to calm your nerves a bit. Just as you find an article that sounds really interesting that you would like to read... knock knock. The doctor is ready to see you now.
Most doctors will try to make some sort of a conversation so that your nerves are soothed and she/he can start your physical. Most of them start off with a lot of questions, such as when was the last time you were intimate with someone? At what age did you start having intimate relationships? Did you ever have unprotected sex with anyone? How many partners you have had. Do yourself a favor on this one, don’t lie. It’s better to be honest with your doctor, so that they can give you the best possible help.
Once you get past all the preliminaries, the doctor will then proceed to do the physical examination. Guys who are reading this: unless you want to know what women go through during a gynecological exam, you can feel free to skip to the next section. Women, here‘s generally what to expect.
You'll have to lay back (get yourself as comfortable as possible), put your feet up in a pair of stirrups and the doctor will ask you to relax as much as possible. The less tense you are, the better this whole experience will be. Breathe and transport yourself mentally to a better place. Relax your vaginal muscles and in goes the speculum. It might feel a little cold; usually the doctor tries to warm it up in hot water. The speculum is used to keep the vaginal walls open while the doctor is doing your pap smear and taking cultures.
The pap smear consists of the following: a plastic instrument that is introduced into the vagina and scraped against the cervix. This allows for the collection of a specimen of the mucosal wall of the vagina for testing. The pap smear tests for any abnormal cells which could be cancerous or may lead to cancer if left untreated. The pap smear also can tell whether you have contracted human papillomavirus (HPV), a common infection which many women acquire and is treatable.
The doctor will then ask you if you'd like to have a bacterial culture done. Say yes. This culture tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Both are sexually transmitted diseases that are usually asymptomatic (meaning you don't have any visible symptoms that tell you there's an infection present) and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and can potentially leave you sterile if you don’t get it treated.
Once these two tests are done the speculum is removed; the doctor will put on a pair of gloves, lubricate a finger and insert it into your vagina while pressing on your abdomen. The reason? To feel your internal organs (ovaries and uterus) to make sure there are no abnormalities. The finger comes out, and guess what... you're done! Get dressed and meet the doctor in the office. Go over birth control methods if you want anything prescribed. The doctor will give you a call in about two weeks with the results of the pap smear and cultures. But before you leave, ask for one more thing... a blood test for HIV. If you're going to do the physical, have it all done the right way.
Your physical will go something as follows. The doctor will proceed with the examination and will check you externally for any bumps, rashes or anything out of the ordinary. The doctor will check for any warts, ask if you’ve had any pain while urinating or discharge from the penis. The doctor also wants to know if you’ve had a swollen throat recently or swollen glands anywhere. He/She will check your pubic hair, the urethral opening, and check your anus (the doctor may have to do a digital anal exam if there’s a possibility of warts or prostate inflammation). Then comes the dreaded (but painless) part, the doctor then inserts a thin plastic stick into your penis. This stick collects live cells from inside your penis which are checked under microscope for any sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea and chlamydia). Almost done.
The doctor then checks for scrotal hernias, by holding your scrotum while asking you to cough. It's over... "Yeah!!!" But wait, one more thing. Just as we told the women, make sure that you ask for your blood HIV test. This is the one thing that the little plastic stick does not test for, yet is a most important test to get.
So there you have it, the sexual health check up in a nutshell. If the doctor does find anything wrong, many times it can be treated that same day. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are treated with a shot or pill (not many pills, just one).
So was it that bad? Maybe just a little, but was it worth it? Absolutely! Do you want to know the best way to decrease all that pre-test tension for the next time? Use protection each and every time you have any type of intimate relation with another person, unless you are in a trusted long-term and already tested relationship. You can find anything you need in the store: condoms, female condoms, and dental dams (for oral sex). You can also go to your area sex health clinic, where many of these things are available for free.