For anyone with a vagina, going to the gynecologist is a fact of life.
OB-GYN visits can seem really scary, especially if you aren't experienced with them. But there's a lot of important reasons to go see your lady doctor, including testing for different types of cancers and making sure you're clear of STIs.
But as important as gynos are, there are also a lot of myths surrounding their profession. Here are seven common misconceptions about OB-GYN visits, debunked.
Myth: You should get a pap smear once a year.
Truth: Relax—you don't need a pap smear as often as you might think. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says women aged 21–29 years should have one every 3 years, while women aged 30–65 years can go every 3-5 years.
Myth: You have to be 21 to see the OB-GYN.
Truth: Girls can start seeing their OB-GYN as early as age 13. While pelvic exams probably aren't needed that young, the ACOG recommends going to the OB-GYN earlier to establish a trusting relationship. Especially in schools where sex education isn't so comprehensive, going to the OB-GYN earlier rather than later fosters a constructive environment to discuss topics like periods, birth control options, and STIs.
Myth: Being on birth control for years can decrease your fertility.
Truth: Birth control only inhibits your fertility while you're using it; once you're off the pill or have your IUD taken out, your fertility for the long term shouldn't be affected.
Myth: I don't need to see my OB-GYN once I'm with a long-term partner and done having kids.
Truth: No matter how many kids you have, you should still make regular visits to your OB-GYN to check on your overall reproductive health. It's also important to continue having screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Myth: Pap smears test for STIs.
Truth: Pap smears only test for cervical cancer.
Myth: If my doctor doesn't ask to screen me for STIs, I don't need one.
Truth: Some doctors don't ask their patients if they want to be screened for STIs. If you haven't been asked, speak up! You might as well get one while you're there.
Myth: Breast cancer is the no. 1 killer of women.
Truth: Heart disease is the leading killer of women—it actually kills more women than it does men.