Many women are uncertain of when they are supposed to begin caring for their reproductive health by seeing an OB/GYN and what questions to ask at each stage of their lives.
Here are a few tips to help you know when to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist, aside from pregnancy checkups.
When should you start seeing an OB/GYN?
Doctors recommend that women begin seeing a gynecologist when they become sexually active. If a woman is not sexually active, it is still recommended to have a first gynecology exam by age 21.
“I think this really depends on the individual,” said Dr. Andrew Dunham, St. Bernards OB/GYN. “Every woman should start Pap smear screenings at age 21 in order to prevent cervical cancer by catching problems early.”
How often should you return to your gynecologist?
Most doctors say that if you are experiencing no reproductive irregularity or issues, and you are not having a baby or trying to get pregnant, once a year is often enough to see your OB/GYN.
“The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends yearly visits,” said Dr. Dunham. “In a practical sense, yearly visits are a great way to make sure you are keeping up with screening exams and vaccinations.”
Problems requiring a more frequent visit to the gynecologist include irregular periods, irregular bleeding and pain or discomfort. Additionally, women in their reproductive years may want to visit more often in order to discuss family planning.
How long should you continue gynecology visits?
Women should continue seeing their gynecologist regularly for most of their lives, even after they are finished having children and through menopause.
“Women’s health doesn’t start and stop with pregnancy,” said Dr. Dunham. “Annual exams and Pap smear screenings should definitely be maintained even after a patient is done with child birth. In addition, it is also very common for women to experience problems with abnormal periods, pelvic pain and urinary problems as they move into their 30s, 40s and beyond. There are a number of ways these problems can be addressed with medications and minimally invasive procedures that can be discussed with a woman’s OB/GYN.”
The screenings offered by gynecologist visits are very important to reduce risks of certain cancers and diseases and should be repeated yearly in order to prevent serious problems that can be prevented by early detection.
If you need to schedule an OB/GYN check-up, please call 870.207.7300 or visit stbobgyn.com.