Due to the complexities of the female reproductive system, women have health concerns that require regular testing by an Ob/Gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist). The standard gynecological test administered to women in their reproductive years is called a pap smear. Find out why you shouldn't put off getting a pap smear if you're a woman over the age of 21.
What Is a Pap Smear?
A pap smear is an exam that allows your gynecologist to view a sample of cells on your cervix. A tool called a speculum is used to widen the vagina so that a swab of cells can be taken and the cervix can be examined visually. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes. Women also often opt for STD testing at their pap smear appointments.
Why Pap Smears Are Important
Regular pap smears are important because they allow for early detection of potential problems. One of the most common concerns that gynecologists have for sexually active women is cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). When abnormal cells are checked and caught early, they can be treated with simple procedures to avoid future problems. Cervical cancer is considered very rare now, mostly thanks to regular pap smears, and it is most effectively treated in its early stages. Other concerns, like Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast infections can be diagnosed by a pap smear, and treated with medication.
How Often Should You Schedule a Pap Smear Appointment?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that regardless of sexual activity, young women should schedule their first pap smear appointment at age 21. After that, pap smears should be scheduled every two years until age 30. After that, pap smear appointment can be scheduled every three years as long as there isn't a problem detected. Women who have abnormal pap smears should take their gynecologist's advice for how often to come in for checkups.
Call Your Ob/Gyn Today
Today is a good day to call your local Ob/Gyn to schedule a pap smear. Don't put off this relatively simple and quick checkup appointment for women as it is an important part of maintaining good gynecological health.
Preconception counseling is an important step in pregnancy planning. When you are ready to have become pregnant, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your obstetrician or gynecologist first. There are specific questions your doctor will ask that can help you determine if you are truly ready to get pregnant. If you decide that it is the right time to conceive, your doctor can advise you on what things you can do now to improve your chances of conceiving, as well as how to prepare for pregnancy.
Preconception counseling is an excellent time to discuss any specific concerns you have with your doctor. For instance, having certain health conditions, such as diabetes, can potentially impact your health and the baby’s during pregnancy. Being older when pregnant, particularly in your mid to late 30s or even 40s, poses additional risks as well. There are many factors to take into account when deciding to become pregnant. Your doctor can assess your specific situation and make recommendations to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
During your preconception counseling appointment, your doctor will discuss a variety of concerns with you and your partner, if you have one. Topics of discussion can include:
- Hereditary conditions that might be inherited by the baby
- Health conditions and concerns of the mother-to-be
- Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet
- Safe exercises for pregnancy
- Cessation of tobacco products, alcohol and other drugs
- Important immunizations for both mother and child
- Ways for the partner to be supportive during pregnancy
- Any other concerns the patient, partner or doctor might have
Seeing a doctor regularly throughout pregnancy is always important. It is also just as important to schedule time with your doctor to discuss various concerns before becoming pregnant. Preconception counseling can help you achieve optimal health for you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.
When it comes to preventing pregnancy, there are many options available today. Common birth control methods for women include oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices and Depo-Provera injections. However, contraception isn’t one size fits all and, depending on your personal situation and family planning objectives, one birth control method might be better for you than another. Your OBGYN can help you decide which type of contraception is best for you.
Types of Contraception
Oral contraceptives, otherwise known as birth control pills, are a popular contraception choice among women of different ages. Many women prefer birth control pills because they are easy to use, as simple as taking one pill daily. Birth control pills also help regulate the menstrual cycle and can ease menstrual camps, both advantages appreciated by many women on the pill. Another advantage of birth control pills is that their effects are easily reversed when you are ready to try conceiving.
Birth control pills are a convenient option for many women. However, they are not a good fit for women who have or have had certain types of hormone positive cancers. Most birth control pills contain estrogen, progestin or both and are not suitable for women unable to use hormone treatments or therapies. This is particularly true for women who must avoid estrogen-based therapies.
Depo-Provera is another popular type of contraception. Depo-Provera is an injection that is administered every three months by a nurse or other healthcare professional. For women who worry about forgetting to take oral contraceptives daily, a tai-monthly injection like Depo-Provera offers a convenient and practical alternative. Injections like Depo-Provera typically contain the hormone progestin, but not estrogen, so it can be an option for women who avoiding contraception methods with estrogen.
A third type of contraception is the intrauterine device. This option is popular among women who do not want to worry about their contraception daily or even every few months and who do not plan on becoming pregnant for several years. The intrauterine device is placed in the uterus by your doctor and remains in place for anywhere from three to five years, during which time pregnancy is prevented. The device can only be removed by your doctor.
The different types of contraception available to women each has its own advantages and benefits. Discuss your needs and preferences with your gynecologist or OGBYN. Your doctor can help you choose the method of contraception that is right for you and your situation.
Osteoporosis weakens your bones and can cause them to break easily. The condition is particularly common in older people. In fact, more than 53 million people in the U.S. either have the disease or at high risk for developing it, according to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center.
How does osteoporosis affect bones?
If you have osteoporosis, your bones gradually become less dense and more porous. You may also experience thinning in the outside edges of the long bones in your body. Because of these changes, it's very easy to break a bone if you fall, even if you don't fall very hard. Osteoporosis affects both sexes but is more common in women. If you're female, you're more likely to be affected by the disease because:
- Women's bones are generally smaller and thinner than men's.
- Estrogen, a hormone that helps protect bones, decreases at menopause.
- Women tend to live longer than men. The longer you live, the more likely you'll develop osteoporosis-related problems.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
In the early stages of the disease, you probably won't notice any changes. Symptoms generally don't occur unless your bones have weakened considerably. If you have osteoporosis, you may notice:
- You are shorter than you once were.
- Your posture has changed, and it's hard to stand perfectly upright without stooping.
- You have back pain due to compression fractures in your vertebrae.
- Your bones break easily.
- Dental X-rays show that you've lost bone in your jaw.
How is osteoporosis treated?
Although your bones will never be as strong or as dense as they were when you were younger, treatment is available to strengthen your bones and prevent breaks. Your doctor can prescribe medication that will slow the rate of bone break down and reduce your risk of fractures. In addition to taking medication, it's important to participate in weight-bearing activity and exercises that strengthen your bones and help improve your balance. Eating a diet high in calcium and taking supplements that contain calcium and vitamin D can also help protect your bones.
If you're concerned that you may have osteoporosis, talk to your OB/GYN about your risk factors and symptoms. Prompt treatment is the key to preventing the potentially serious consequences of this disease.
Getting a pelvic exam can be nerve-wracking, especially if this is your first visit, but knowing what to expect when you step foot in our office can help take away some of the anxiety. If you are feeling a bit nervous, don’t worry. We are here to provide you with all the information you could ever need regarding your next pelvic exam.
What is a Pelvic Exam?
A pelvic exam is a normal part of a woman’s routine gynecological exam. During the pelvic exam, a gynecologist will examine the reproductive organs to check for any potential signs of infection or other potential issues. Sometimes a Pap smear is also performed during your visit. During a Pap smear, we will remove some cells from the cervix to check for any cancerous or precancerous cells. Early detection is important, as it often makes treating health conditions much easier.
Besides a pelvic exam sometimes your gynecological visit may include:
- A discussion about your medical history
- A breast exam
- STD testing
Who Should Get a Pelvic Exam?
Unless you are facing a health issue, most women can start getting a pelvic and breast exam by the age of 21. Even before a pelvic exam, it’s recommended that women get annual gynecological visits. Especially during a time where a young woman’s body is changing so drastically it’s sometimes helpful to have a doctor to turn to for questions about birth control, bodily changes, sexual health, etc.
When you come in for your first exam we will also tell you how often you should come in for care. A lot will depend on your medical history. If you’ve had abnormal Pap smear results, past sexual health problems, a family history of gynecological cancers or a sexually transmitted disease then you may need to come in more regularly.
For the sake of your health, getting a pelvic and breast exam should at least be an annual visit that you don’t miss. These visits are vitally important for your health and it's truly the best way to detect any health issues as early as possible.
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