I don't care how many pelvic exams you've had. I don't care how many pap smears. I don't care if your healthcare provider has the best bedside-manner in the world. You never get used to lying on your back, staring into overly bright fluorescent lights with your legs spread wide open. It's the female equivalent of turn-your-head-and-cough and it's just not a super fun time.
But that's exactly what I did on July 6 for my 12-week checkup at West Valley OBGYN. Of the 14 or so doctor's visits I'll have as part of the pregnancy, I was told the week 12 appointment is one of the most invasive. And you know what? It really wasn't that bad. Aside from the usual blood pressure, height, weight, etc., there was a pelvic exam, a breast exam and quick fetal heart rate check with a handheld ultrasound device (156 beats per minute right on track). Peed in a cup. They drew some (okay, a lot) of blood. But that's pretty much it.
Come to think of it, the part of the exam that threw me for the biggest loop was the medical history form. It's a doozy much longer and more involved than the ones you've filled out before. And it asked some questions I genuinely couldn't answer.
Now, I'd like to think I'm fairly knowledgeable about medical terminology. I was raised by a nurse. My first summer job was filing at a medical office. I worked all through college at a busy urgent care. I write about healthcare for a living now. But let me tell you, even I was sitting in the waiting room Googling some of this stuff on my phone.
To avoid the same thing happening to you, here's a glossary I devised with some of the more confusing jargon and what it actually means:
- Menarche: Age when you started your period
- PPD: Post-partum depression
- BCP: Birth-control pill
- HCG: Human chorionic gonadotropin the hormone an embryo produces after implantation. It's what most pregnancy tests are checking for.
- Rh (or Rhesus) Factor - A protein that sits on the surface of your red blood cells. Some people have it, some people don't. If you're negative for Rh and your baby is positive, your antibodies may see the baby as a threat and attack, almost like an allergic reaction.
- DES: Diethylstilbestrol a man-made version of estrogen given between the 1930 and 1970 to help women with low levels of estrogen deliver full-term babies. It was later discovered this could cause reproductive abnormalities when taken during early pregnancy.
- ART Therapy: Antiretroviral therapy a combination of medications used to treat HIV.
- Thalassemia: A genetic blood disorder that produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Found in people of Greek, Italian, Mediterranean or Asian ancestry.
- Neural Tube Defects: Birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. The two most common ones are spina bifida (meningomyelocele) and anencephaly. In spina bifida, the spinal column doesn't close completely. In anencephaly, the brain and skull do not develop.
- Tay-Sachs Disease: A genetic disorder that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Found in people of Jewish (specifically Ashkenazi), French Canadian or Cajun ancestry.
- Canavan Disease: A genetic disorder that damages the ability of nerve cells in the brain to send and receive messages. Found in people of Jewish (specifically Ashkenazi) ancestry.
- Huntington's Chorea: More commonly referred to as Huntington's disease. Huntington's disease is a combination of physical, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms, including “chorea” or involuntary movements.
- Fragile X: A genetic condition that causes developmental problems, including learning disabilities and other cognitive impairment.
This is just a sample of some of diseases and conditions I was asked about on the medical history form. The ones I couldn't find on Google while I waited, I asked the very nice nurse about as she took my blood pressure. And I'm sure my nurse practitioner (Karen Carloy, who I think is just the bee's knees) would have been happy to explain had I asked for more detail.
One last word of advice from a former journalist: when you're Googling health stuff, be mindful of where you're getting your information. There are a lot of crazy, misinformed people out there, but websites ending in .gov or .edu are always a smart bet. The CDC, National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization are all great sources of highly researched, peer-reviewed medical information. And there are some great healthcare websites including the West Valley Health Library that provide plenty of articles, images and helpful videos.