Whether you're interested in birth control, scheduling an annual exam, or discussing a health related concern, University Health Services provides a variety of caring, confidential services for women. The University Health Services women's health providers include a gynecologist and other physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners with expertise in providing health services for college women.
Appointments for these services can be made through myUHS or by calling the University Health Services appointment line.
- Women's Annual Preventative Exam
Women should begin scheduling annual women's health exams when they turn 21. Prior to age 21 we do not call this an "Annual Preventative Exam" but you should be seen for STI (sexually transmitted infections) screening, pregnancy prevention or menstrual concerns. An annual women's health exam could include consideration of pregnancy prevention, screening for STI, and may include a physical exam, breast exam, and pelvic exam. Pap smears are performed according to a recommended screening schedule usually beginning at age 21 and repeated every 3 years if normal. Gonorrhea and chlamydia testing are recommended yearly through age 24. Women 25 years of age and older should receive gonorrhea and chlamydia testing if they have a new partner or additional risk factors.
What should I expect during the exam?
Before the physical exam begins a medical and reproductive history will be recorded as well as your weight, height, blood pressure and pulse. The information requested will vary depending on the reason for your visit but may include questions about family history of illness; your present health status and habit;, details of your menstrual cycle; your sexual history; present method of contraception; and past illness, operations, and pregnancy. This information helps us determine your health needs.
Before the exam, you will be asked to change into a gown or drape in the exam room. Your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant may then examine your thyroid gland, heart, lungs, breasts, and abdomen to help identify potential health concerns. Breast self-exam is no longer recommended, but self-breast awareness is recommended. Meaning, if you notice any changes or have concerns about your breasts you should bring it to your providers' attention.
If a pelvic exam is needed, you will then be asked to lie down, slide to the end of the examination table and put your heels in the footrests, called stirrups. Feeling tense, anxious, or even embarrassed is common. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can be helpful. Your clinician will first look at your external genitalia for signs of redness or infection then proceed to examine your internal pelvic organs. To do this, she or he will separate the walls of the vagina with a speculum. The speculum is a slender metal or plastic instrument that looks like a duckbill. It should not pinch and may be warmed or moistened before being gently inserted into your vagina.
Although the pelvic exam may be an awkward experience, it should not be painful. You may feel pressure that can be uncomfortable but you should not feel pain. Tell your clinician if you feel pain.
At this point, your health care provider can see your cervix. The cervix is the lower portion of your uterus and can be a site of abnormal cell development. The clinician may do a Pap smear. A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix in order to test for precancerous or cancerous changes of the cervix.
Additional tests for vaginal or sexually transmitted infections can be taken at this time as well. Then the speculum will be removed. A small amount of vaginal bleeding or spotting after your exam can be normal. You clinician will next place two gloved fingers into your vagina while their other hand gently presses on your lower abdomen. This identifies the size, shape, and position of your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Again, you should feel pressure but not pain.
Finally, a rectal exam may be performed. Still wearing a glove, your health clinician will insert a finger into the vagina while another well-lubricated finger is gently inserted into the rectum. This is done to determine if there are any masses in the anal canal and also to feel the uterus, cervix, and ovaries. Again, try to relax. If you want to refuse the rectal exam, please let your clinician know.
That's it! Your pelvic exam is over. If you want to discuss birth control and contraception now is a great time to discuss what option is best for your with your health care provider.
How can I prepare for my appointment?
- Please print and complete the Women's Health History Form if this is your first women's health visit.
- Refrain from intercourse or placing anything (tampons, suppositories, etc.) in your vagina 48 hours prior to your exam to ensure a more accurate pap smear result.
- Please note: If you are experiencing significant gynecological problems such as severe menstrual cramps, severe PMS, infrequent periods, or very irregular periods, you will need to first schedule an appointment to specifically address these problems. An annual exam for routine care can be scheduled at a later date.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. HPV is most common in men and women in their late teens and early twenties.
Vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV. These vaccines are given in three shots. It is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. The vaccines are most effective when given before a person's first sexual contact when he or she could be exposed to HPV.
- Women: In the United States only Gardasil is available. This vaccine protects against most types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancer and genital warts. They would like to add another bullet saying: Routine immunization for females should be offered at 11 to 12 years of age up to age 45, though it can be started as young as age 9.
Many people refer to HPV as genital warts, but HPV includes over 100 viruses. One-third of these viruses cause genital problems that affect both sexes, such as genital warts on a man’s penis or a woman’s vagina or cervix. In a small number of women, cell changes in the cervix may be precancerous. Genital warts can appear as small hard spots or have a fleshy cauliflower appearance, but in other cases warts are not visible to the naked eye.
As with all vaccines, it may not protect everyone who gets the vaccine and will not protect against types of HPV that are not contained in the vaccine.
Gardasil is given in a series of 3 injections, with dose 2 given 2 months after the first dose, and dose 3 given 6 months after the first dose. The most common side effects of the vaccine are pain, swelling, itching, and redness at the injection site, and fever. Individuals who are allergic to any ingredient in the vaccine or who have an allergic reaction after the first dose should not receive the vaccine.
Students should contact their insurance provider prior to their appointment to determine if they will cover all or part of the cost. Three injections are needed. Students may elect to pay the charges at the time of the visit or have the charges added to their student accounts.
- Contraception/Emergency Contraception
There are many contraceptive options available to women, most of which are offered through University Health Services. Please talk with your health care provider to determine which option that is best for you.
To get started:
- Schedule a brief appointment (without an exam) with a clinician to review your health history and discuss various contraceptive options.
- Schedule a complete women's annual preventative exam which is typically recommended to start at age 21. The various contraceptive options and their risks and benefits may be discussed at that time.
Contraceptives available here:
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
- Nexplanon (Arm Implant)
- Depo Provera (the shot)
- The Pill (combined hormonal and Progesterone)
- The Patch
- The Ring
- Barrier Methods (male and female condoms)
The emergency contraceptive pill (Plan B) can be used by women who are concerned about a possible pregnancy due to unprotected intercourse, birth control misuse, or sexual assault.
Emergency contraceptive is currently available over-the-counter and does not require a prescription from a health care provider. It is effective up to 72 hours or 3 days after intercourse. Another emergency contraception pill, Ella, requires an office visit and prescription but can be effective up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. The effectiveness of an emergency contraceptive pill decreases the longer you wait, so don't delay if you are interested.
- Gynecological Problems and other Women's Health Issues
Common women's health concerns addressed by University Health Services include:
- Menstrual disorders
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs)
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrom (PMS)
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginitis (yeast infections)
- Pelvic pain, swelling or discharge
- Pain or swelling in the breast
- Pelvic abnormalities including ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and polyps
Women with urgent problems are typically seen the same day. If you have a medical problem requiring an urgent appointment, please call the appointment line during regular business hours. If you are experiencing a women's health issue after hours, please call the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463 to discuss your medical concern. The nurse will help you decide what action is needed to address your health problem.
UHS does not provide prenatal care, a referral will be given for a local obstetrician/gynecologist.
Pregnancy testing is available at University Health Services by appointment with a nurse. Appointments for pregnancy testing are usually available within 1 to 3 days.
For patients who are pregnant and unsure of their options, options counseling is available through University Health Services and can be scheduled through myUHS or by calling the UHS appointment line during regular business hours.