Reader: Dear Jade, I have not had an examination done by a gynaecologist before. Is it more important for me to get one from them instead of my GP?

How often should I get an examination done, and what can I expect?

Jade: For the sake of maintaining good reproductive and sexual health, all sexually active women should consult a gynaecologist once a year. If you’re older than 20, even if you are not sexually active, you should prioritise and schedule an annual consultation.

Try to make sure that you schedule your appointment between menstruation cycles so the exam is easier.

If you’re not too sure about how your cycle works, the day your period starts is day one of your cycle. This is shedding of the inner lining of the uterus and can be painful for some. Benign growths and fibroids can worsen the pain and cause heavy bleeding.

Your gynaecologist will want to know when last you had your period, how long it lasted for and whether it was normal or not. The average period lasts for between three and five days – remember, there’s nothing wrong if your period lasts up to seven days.

Before your examination, you will be given a gown to change into and a reading of your body weight will be taken.

Your gynae will need to know important details such as your last period, family medical history and your sexual history. Contraception should also be discussed.

A pap smear will be done, using a vaginal speculum to hold the walls of the vagina open, by taking a sample of the cervix to check for any abnormal cells.

A pelvic exam should be done to check your internal and external genitalia. This should be followed by a sonar scan to check your uterus for fibroids and any other abnormalities.

The gynaecologist will use their hands to examine your breasts for irregularities such as lumps in breast tissue.

I recommend that you use this opportunity to do a full-spectrum test for sexually transmitted infections. It is very important to be honest with your doctor about your sexual history so that they know how best to treat you.

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