By Annette Brooks
Obstetric and gynecologic care is essential to women’s health, but it’s easy to take your Ob-Gyn visits for granted. It’s tempting to postpone an annual well-woman appointment when you’re busy, and everything seems to be going smoothly. And let’s face it, who relishes the idea of discussing uncomfortable issues with their doctor?
As we celebrate the holidays and look forward to the New Year, now is an ideal time to focus on your health and self-care. Vow to make the most of every visit to your Ob-Gyn. It’s the best holiday gift you can give yourself.
Develop a Relationship
Your Ob-Gyn is your partner in women’s health. Find a board-certified Ob-Gyn with whom you feel comfortable engaging in candid conversation, asking questions, and sharing concerns. An Ob-Gyn has unique training and skills, but mind-reading isn’t one of them. Don’t be shy about bringing up sensitive topics. Make a list to bring to your appointment if this helps.
Beyond Routine Well-Woman Preventive Care
Ob-Gyns do more than monitor pregnancy, deliver babies, help you with family planning, and perform routine pelvic exams and PAP tests. If you have any signs or symptoms that may signify a potential feminine health problem, schedule an appointment with your Ob-Gyn right away.
Vaginal Discharge and/or Odor – This may not be a comfortable topic to discuss, but if you experience an unusual discharge or an odor that’s not normal for you, please tell your Ob-Gyn. It could be something as common as a yeast infection or as serious as cervical cancer. Get it checked out instead of hoping it will go away on its own.
Bumps, Growths, and Swelling – Don’t brush off something unusual, assuming it’s an ingrown hair or razor burn. It could be a cyst on the wall of the vagina or something else. See your Ob-Gyn for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Period Pain – Unusual or extreme pain could be due to treatable conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Don’t continue to suffer in pain. Schedule an appointment with your Ob-Gyn, who will help identify the cause and recommend treatment options.
Urine Leakage – This is often caused by health events such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. See your Ob-Gyn, who can offer solutions, so you don’t have to worry about those embarrassing leaks.
Feeling Pressure or Fullness in the Pelvic Area – This could be due to several things, including fibroids, pelvic congestion syndrome (venous insufficiency in the blood vessels of the pelvis), and pelvic organ prolapse, where the pelvic muscles and tissues become weak or damaged and can no longer support the organs. Your OB/Gyn can diagnose the problem and offer solutions.
HPV and the Importance of Annual Cervical Cancer Screening
According to the National Cancer Institute, an extensive study of HPV-vaccinated females showed nearly a 90% reduction in cervical cancer. This is excellent news and points out the value of getting vaccinated, but what about the other 10%? While the HPV vaccine protects against infection from nine common HPV types — two low-risk HPV types that cause most genital warts, plus the seven high-risk HPV types that cause most HPV-related cancers — it doesn’t protect against every single HPV. Since it’s possible a fully vaccinated person could be infected with an HPV that isn’t contained in the vaccine, regular cervical cancer screening is essential. This should be a part of your annual exam but knowing HPV vaccines don’t offer 100% protection is another reason not to skip your screening.