As 50% of the population can attest to, there are certain medical issues that are exclusive and necessary to focus on for women. It’s extremely beneficial to have a doctor you trust and can be honest with when it comes to discussing the particulars of women’s health. A good place to begin is with what is called a “well-woman” appointment, which may include gynecological exams, pelvic exams and discussions on age-related matters, sexual history, and over-all medical history.
The female body goes through cyclical hormonal changes on a regular basis that control mood, energy, weight and fertility. Women need regular check-ups that include hormone tests and pap smears to better evaluate their health. These visits can help identify ovarian health, hormone imbalances and cervical health. It is important to catch hormone imbalances early, so that treatments can prevent long-term issues.
The first well-woman visit should start around age 13 to 15. At about age 21, regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations should begin. And as you get older or as your health changes, hormonal changes can become more relevant and may need to be addressed. Other factors to discuss are alcohol or drug use, allergies, illnesses, infections, smoking, and any surgeries you have had.
Postmenopausal women and women over age 50 should be assessed for osteopenia and osteoporosis and should get DEXA scan to assess bone health. You can also explore starting bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. If you are currently on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, you should continue to have pap smears and monitor your cervical and breast health.
A well-woman exam should include discussions about:
- Birth control
- Bleeding or pain after sex
- Irregular periods
- Pelvic pain
- Pregnancy tests
- Vaginal discharge
These exams can be an empowering experience that guide you in making informed decisions for your health and wellness. You should feel free to ask questions and your doctor should offer suggestions to make improvements. You need to be proactive about scheduling more frequent appointments if you have previously had any abnormal test results.
A well-woman exam should be considered a priority at all stages of life. Tests will look for different issues depending on the need and risk factors. If you haven’t already, speak with your doctor about the benefits from regular well-woman exams.