MUSC Women’s Health Experts Address Misconceptions and Fears

June 14, 2021
Dr. Brown and Dr. Helton-Rieter

MUSC Women's Health experts Lauren Brown, M.D. and Megann Helton-Rieter, M.D. came together to discuss "What to Expect"; at a first gynecology appointment during a recent MUSC Women's Health Facebook Live.

The two talked through the full experience starting from when you first walk in to when you finish the examination. Most individuals will not need an exam until they are 21, unless another reason suggests that it should be sooner. Drs. Brown and Helton-Rieter wanted to emphasize that the pelvic examination, while important, it is just another part of the appointment. Before they move towards any type of exam, they want to get to know the patient.

During this initial conversation, they want to hear what the patient intends to get out of their appointment. They will ask questions ranging from last menstrual cycle to sexual history but also encourage the patients to ask questions. They reiterated that this is the patient's appointment and therefore, they are entitled to privacy, meaning a conversation without a parent present in the room. Patients can elect for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing during this time, as well. The CDC recommends that individuals with new sexual partners or those aged 25 and under should consider getting tested for STIs annually.

One thing that both Drs. Brown and Helton-Rieter emphasized is that your concerns are normal. They discussed that it is a common assumption that one's problems are rare or abnormal. They emphasized that oftentimes they discuss the same concern multiple times that day and that it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

"A lot of what we do at these visits isn't fixing problems, it's establishing normalcy. It's establishing that you are normal and that your concerns are validated," said Dr. Helton-Rieter.

Doctors Megann Helton-Rieter and Lauren Brown with speculums  
Dr. Megann Helton-Rieter and Dr. Lauren Brown with speculums

The two providers discussed the process of the pelvic examination itself. In addition to talking through what will happen during the exam, they also showed the objects one should expect to see during their visit, including gowns and speculums (both plastic and metal).

Dr. Brown and Dr. Helton-Rieter went into specifics on how to wear the gown, noting that is the point when individuals start to feel uncomfortable. However, they assured viewers that there is no wrong way to put on the gown and the patient should wear based on their level of comfort.

Our experts also debunked the common misconception that pelvic exams are the same as Pap smears.

"A pap smear is where we use a very soft little brush and just kind of rub it along your cervix and we are collecting little cells to screen for cervical cancer," explained Dr. Brown.

Your pelvic exam is done annually and a Pap smear, if no concerns are noted by the provider, should be conducted every three years. This appointment is also a great time to discuss contraception and birth control options. If you would like to review different methods prior to discussing with your provider, they recommended visiting bedsider.org/.

The full Facebook Live is on the MUSC Women's Health Facebook page.

To learn more, find a location near you and make an appointment, please visit: muschealth.org/medical-services/womens/gynecology

About the Author

MUSC Women's Health

Keywords: Womens Health