You can expect your OBGYN to conduct a clinical breast exam to look for any abnormal lumps, changes in shape or skin texture, or unusual nipple discharge. As part of the exam, your doctor will begin with a visual check of the breast skin and tissues. You may be asked to raise your arms over your head to look for differences between your breasts. Then, your OBGYN will perform a manual check to evaluate texture and look for lumps. The doctor will lightly palpate your breast tissue, underarm and collarbone areas.
In addition to checking your breasts, your OBGYN will perform a pelvic exam. This typically begins with a visual inspection of the labia and vagina for lesions or discharge. Then, a speculum is placed in the vagina to allow for an inspection of the upper vagina and cervix. A pap smear is also performed to check for cervical cancer and certain STDs, depending on your age and sexual activity.
Your OBGYN will conduct the annual well-woman exam with a nurse or medical assistant present. While some women feel a little discomfort during the breast or pelvic exam, it should not be painful. Tell your doctor if you experience discomfort or have concerns. Also, if you are planning on getting pregnant, your annual wellness exam is a good time to begin pre-pregnancy counseling.
During pre-pregnancy (or pre-conception) counseling, your OBGYN will discuss your medical history, family medical history, home and workplace environment and lifestyle factors. In addition, your doctor will likely recommend you begin taking a folic acid supplement, which reduces the risk of a fetus developing a neural tube defect. Genetic counseling to determine your chances of having a baby with a birth defect is also an option, especially for women over 40 or those with a family history of genetic problems and birth defects.