Annual gynecological exams are preventative tools available to help women identify and treat complications that pose a threat to their health as early as possible. By getting annual exams, women can also learn to maintain a healthy lifestyle and adopt habits that facilitate long-term health. Exams for women often screen for sexually transmitted diseases and include the administration of vaccinations for common diseases like HPV, hepatitis, and the flu. As women age, annual exams may also include discussions about using hormone supplementation to manage the symptoms of, as well as the use of supplements to prevent osteoporosis.
Did you know…
that your annual gynecological exam is an excellent opportunity to discuss family planning with your providers? Your gynecologist can offer fertility counseling, as well as education about ovulation and improving your chances of conception. If you are not yet ready to start a family or are finished having children, you can speak with your gynecologist about your options for birth control.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that you begin getting breast health exams at age 19 and annual pelvic exams with pap smears at age 21. Once your reach age 30, you will still need breast and pelvic exams each year but may space pap smears every two years so long as all previous pap smears have been normal.
Your annual exam will begin with an assessment of your weight and blood pressure, as well as a discussion of any symptoms or health changes you may have experienced since your last visit. Your gynecologist will palpate your breasts to check for lumps or unusual changes to breast tissue. The pelvic exam will also include a manual and visual examination of the cervix, uterus, and vagina. If you are getting a pap test, your providers will swab your cervix to check for the presence of abnormal cells.
Your gynecologist will advise you on any changes you may need to make following your exam. For example, you may be advised to modify your diet, exercise habits or the types of supplements you should be taking each day.
Menopause is a natural part of life as normal as menstruation or having a baby. All women eventually enter menopause though some sooner than later. When menopause occurs, the body stops producing an egg each month during ovulation and menstruation halts. Aside from changes to menstrual cycles, women entering menopause may begin to experience side effects of hormonal changes, such as hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and thinning hair.
Did you know…
that the average age of onset for menopause is 51 for American women? However, menopause is most likely to occur at any time between the ages of 40 and 60.Some women even go through early menopause, which is menopause that occurs before the age of 40. In extremely rare cases, early menopause can occur as young as a woman’s teens or 20s.
Perimenopause is the period when menstruation and ovulation is erratic and menopausal symptoms are beginning to set in. Menopause is not said to have occurred until a year has passed since a woman last menstruated. You could be approaching menopause if you are experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause, although this isn’t likely to occur before age 40.
Your gynecologist will confirm that your symptoms are related to perimenopause or menopause, and he or she will explain the types of symptoms you can expect in the coming months and years. Your providers may also speak to you about hormone replacement therapy, which can help you manage the hormonal changes that occur as your menstrual cycles stop.
If the symptoms of menopause are interacting with your day to day life, do not hesitate to speak with your gynecologist about the ways that you can treat or manage issues like sleep disruptions, anxiety, depression, or low energy.