Preparing: What to expect. What to bring.

 

OK, you’ve scheduled an appointment for your Well-Woman Visit. Hooray for you! You’ve just taken a major step toward beating heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. You’ve made sure that you’re seeing a doctor in your network that is covered by your insurance plan so you won’t be charged a co-pay. All systems are go… so here are some things to be prepared for.

Make sure to bring your insurance card. It’s always simpler checking in if you have your card with you, so put it in your purse now. Bring a few dollars for parking, but remember to bring your parking stub in with you and ask if your doctor’s office will validate it for free parking.

Start making a list of questions to ask your doctor. Start working on a list now to ask about any health concerns you want to bring up – sore joints, dizziness, bloating, fatigue, trouble sleeping, or whatever. Write them down and bring them with you to the exam. It’s easy to leave something out that you need your doctor’s advice on. Be aware that if the primary reason for your visit is not preventive, you can be charged your co-pay and deductible for the office visit. So if you sprain your ankle right before your trip to the doctor and decide to expand the purpose of your appointment, be prepared to pay.

Start researching your family’s health history. Before your visit, check with close relatives and ask if they know of any diseases that tend to run in your family, like heart disease, strokes, diabetes, or whatever. Try to do research on the past three generations, finding out the age at diagnosis, and the age and cause of death for family members. If certain diseases are common in your family, there’s an increased chance you might be genetically susceptible to the same illnesses. It’s wise to write these down so you don’t forget anything when you see your doctor. Once you have the family history complete, share it with your relatives and encourage them to get their own Well-Woman Visit or annual exam. You can start keeping a thorough family history with this online form:

https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/FHH/html/fhh.html?action=create

Know all your prescription medications that you currently take. If you see various specialists for various ailments, sometimes those doctors have no idea what other medications you are taking. Make a list of all the medicines you take including the dosage, as well as over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements that you use.

Wear new or at least clean undergarments. It’s entirely possible you might be seen by a doctor or nurse while you’re in your underwear, especially when they look for skin abnormalities. This is normal so don’t panic.

Don’t eat for several hours before the exam. A recent meal can cause spikes in blood sugar levels that might cause unnecessary alarm when the blood test results come in. Check with your doctor’s office on how many hours you should avoid eating before your appointment. It’s advisable to drink water ahead of time, as you may be asked to provide a urine sample.

Expect to be reprimanded for unhealthy habits. If you smoke, overeat, or indulge in other unhealthy habits, you need to own up to them and let your doctor know. You can even expect your doctor to cajole/lecture/scold you into dropping your unhealthy lifestyle habits to begin some new healthy ones. This is something good doctors do, so brace yourself emotionally to be scolded a bit. You certainly wouldn’t want to be going to a doctor who said nothing. Ask your doctor how he or she can help you improve your lifestyle. For example, if you need help to quit smoking, your doctor can prescribe nicotine replacement therapy or refer you to tobacco cessation counseling – and these services are also available without any additional cost to you.

Have a reward in mind for after it’s over. When you complete your Well-Woman Visit, you’ve just done a wonderful thing for yourself and for those who depend on you, so reward yourself. Enjoy a healthy smoothie, have your nails done, see a movie, or whatever. You deserve it!