Your annual visit to your gynecologist may not be something you’re likely to get too excited about, but it is one of the most important events each year when it comes to your health.
This annual visit is a critical appointment to ensure that your health needs are being met, as well as looking for conditions such as fibroids or ovarian cysts that you may not even know you have. To better prepare yourself for your annual gynecologic appointment, here’s some advice on how you can make the most of it — at all stages of your life.
Preparing During Adolescence
When teens and young women, younger than 21, visit they should be prepared to address their menstrual cycles and their sexual health needs. Sometimes for a young woman, when she first starts having [menstrual] cycles, they are very irregular, or they may be very heavy and painful, and your gynecologist can help manage that cycle and intervene if needed.
Teens and young women are also encouraged to take advantage of this time to talk about their sexual health, sexually transmitted disease prevention, and their contraceptive needs (if any).”
What to Address During Young Adulthood
In addition to your sexual health history and menstrual cycle, one of the major topics of conversation during annual appointments in your 20s, 30s and early 40s is pregnancy. For those women who are not currently considering pregnancy, it’s the perfect time to discuss contraceptive options. But if they are considering becoming pregnant it’s a great time to discuss optimizing their health before conception, taking into account their specific health issues. There may be labs that need to be done and vitamins to start.”
In addition, if you are interested in pregnancy but are having difficulties conceiving or do not have a partner, your gynecologist can discuss reproductive and fertility services, including preconception planning, in vitro fertilization, management of PCOS and endometriosis, egg donation and more.
What to Talk About During Perimenopause and Beyond
Women in their 40s and 50s who are in perimenopause (the transition phase right before menopause) during which some of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause occur should be prepared to address their menstrual cycles as well as bodily changes and sex drive.
As their cycles begin changing, they may start experiencing symptoms such as hot-flashes, vaginal dryness and mood changes, and all of these symptoms should be discussed with their provider who may be able to offer treatment options.
Sometimes, other-potentially embarrassing topics should also be reviewed during your annual visit, those topics that you don’t like to bring up such as questions about things like incontinence — urinary leakage — or prolapse, when their reproductive organs are beginning to come out” should all be addressed.
If you are post-menopausal, be prepared to discuss health maintenance and cancer screening, including timing of mammograms, pap smears and bone density scans.
What to Note Throughout Your Lifetime
The one thing that should always be addressed with all patients is their menstrual cycle – whether there are problems with it, or it’s going fine, so try and be prepared to discuss the dates of your last period, its regularity and other basic concerns you may have about your body.
You also should feel comfortable discussing anything related to your sexual health and wellbeing with your gynecologist. Remember your gynecologist’s office should is a safe space and you can discuss anything with regards to your sexual history and your sexual identity. And certainly, if there are any concerns of abuse, bring that up with your gynecologist.”
While some of what you’ll discuss during your annual visit can seem embarrassing, try to overcome any bashfulness. Chances are your gynecologist has seen and heard what you’re going to tell them before. Remember, remaining silent or withholding information could be detrimental to your health.
For more information call the Great Falls OB/GYN Associates, (406) 761-7924 or go online to greatfallsobgyn.com