Your sexual and reproductive health is an important key to your overall health and well-being. But many women aren’t sure when they should visit their doctor or gynecologist. Your doctor or gynecologist is there to answer any questions or concerns you may have, and to help keep you healthy. Here are some things to consider:
At what age should women begin to see their doctor or gynecologist about sexual and reproductive health?
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, young women aged 13-15 should have an initial visit with their doctor about their sexual reproductive health. While the doctor will not perform a pelvic or Pap exam (unless they are sexually active), the doctor may administer the HPV vaccine, may perform an external exam, and will discuss sexual health with the patient and explain how to maintain sexual and reproductive health throughout adulthood. All women, sexually active or not, should visit with a gynecologist by the age of 21.
What is a Pap smear and pelvic exam?
In a Pap smear, the doctor will use a long cotton swab-type tool to swipe your cervix and the inside of your vagina. The cells collected on the swab will be viewed under a microscope to determine if it is normal tissue, or if more tests or treatments are needed to safeguard against a developing disease. In a pelvic exam, the doctor will insert two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina to feel your reproductive organs and make sure they are normal in size.
Following the initial exam, how often should women visit their gynecologist’s office?
Most women should visit their doctor every year to keep up on Pap smears, or every three years when not planning a family and with no symptoms or previous irregular Pap results. Many doctors suggest that when a woman reaches the age of 40 she should go for a mammogram test unless there is a family history of breast cancer, then she may want to get the test done earlier. A woman with a clean history of Pap smears and no new sexual partners can stop visiting their gynecologist at age 70.
When should I make an appointment to see the doctor or gynecologist other than my annual visits, or to get a Pap/pelvic?
If you experience a noticeable change in your period, think you may be pregnant, entering menopause, or have irregular bleeding, abdominal pain or genital discomfort, you should call to make an appointment with your doctor.
What other tests do I need to receive over time to test for potential issues with pregnancy, STDs or other complications or conditions?
Some women may also enjoy having sex with their partner, but not climax. Some questions to ask your doctor may involve how can I orgasm? What are possible causes of me not being able to orgasm?
Should my birth control choices change as I mature? What are my choices? And what are the side effects?
And I've heard that hormones can help 'prevent' aging. Is this true? What can they in fact do for me, and should I consider taking them?
This information is not meant to be a replacement for talking with your doctor. Be responsible if you’re going to be sexually active and openly talk with your doctor or clinician about your concerns and symptoms as needed.
www.ACOG.org “Your First Gynecologic Visit” pamphlet
www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health “When to See Your Gynecologist” by Connie Brichford, Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.