Everyone knows the drill about going to the doctor, but when it comes to the gyno do you know visit as often as you should? We asked Clinical Instructor, Julie Levitt and Attending OB/GYN, Lindsay Appel to answer the basic and for their insight for the best feminine health. It's okay to take notes.
How often should you get a checkup?
Everyone is different, but Levitt recommends visiting the gyno annually starting at age 21. "Depending on your needs/concerns, an exam is recommended after age 21. Annual exams can be required sooner if a patient is taking hormonal contraception and needs yearly blood pressure monitoring."
What does a standard checkup look like?
Appel says "A standard check-up includes a pelvic exam, screening for sexually transmitted infections if indicated, and depending on a woman's age, screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and osteoporosis."
Levitt added that a Pap smear is administered once the patient is 21 and continues from that age.
What ages do procedures start?
"Screening for cervical cancer with Pap smears is recommended by The American College of Obstetric and Gynecology to start at age 21. At this time, screening for breast cancer with mammograms is recommended by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to start at age 40 in low risk patients. In women with a family history of breast cancer, sometimes screening may be recommended earlier than age 40. Screening for osteoporosis usually starts at age 65, unless a woman has risk factors like personal or family history of a hip fracture, use of steroids, tobacco or alcohol use, or rheumatoid arthritis," says Appel.
What are some preventative health practices?
"Preventative health measures include discussion of nutrition, exercise, STD exposure and risk reduction, hereditary diseases and recommended screenings based on how individual risk factors such as obesity, diet, tobacco/alcohol use might increase lifetime disease risk" says Levitt.
"HPV vaccination which decreases the risk of human papilloma virus which is significantly associated with cervical cancer," says Appel.
What could happen if you don't visit?
Levitt told us lack of check-ups can "make it difficult to detect diseases at earlier stages and might limit access to contraceptive options that are available only by prescription."
"In addition, failure to treat sexually transmitted infections can increase risk of transmission to partners and the development of pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility and persistent pelvic pain," says Appel.
Signs you need to visit ASAP
Levitt urges individuals to "seek medical attention immediately if you have severe abdominal or pelvic pain, irregular or heavy vaginal bleeding, or total loss of menstrual periods, suspicion of pregnancy or exposure to an STD."
So what's our takeaway? If you're 21 or over, you should definitely already be scheduling your yearly exams. If you're younger than 21 and have concerns about STDs, your menstrual cycle, your birth control, or other sex and reproductive-related issues, you ahead and make your appointment now. Taking care of your vagina is essential for taking care of your whole wellbeing, so don't put it off.