When you’re sick, you go to the doctor for guidance on how to make yourself better. Sometimes, though, preventative medicine is just as vital as reactive treatment — and your gynecologist provides both.
By making regular visits to your OB/GYN, you can ensure your reproductive system is as healthy as it can be, whether you’re experiencing symptoms or not. Keep the following five benefits in mind as you schedule your next appointment, as well as future ones!
1. Better Understanding of Your Reproductive Health
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should visit their doctor for the first time between the ages of 13 and 15. It’s important for girls to attend their first appointment even if they feel trepidation about seeing this type of medical professional. An introductory meeting can help them understand how their bodies will change during puberty. Most of the time, this initial appointment won’t include anything more than a physical exam.
This lays the foundation for a better understanding of reproductive health in young women who are ultimately responsible for taking care of themselves. Plus, a gynecologist will answer any questions they have confidentially, which can be a comfort for teens who have trouble asking their parents about this topic.
2. A Chance to Review Your Personal History Annually
The years can go by quickly, which means you’re likely to lose track of a lot that happens to you during those 12 months. A visit to the gynecologist means you’ll review your personal health history. Your doctor will ask you about any medical events that happened — surgeries, diagnoses, etc. — as well as any new medications you take. This type of information might seem unrelated to your reproductive health, but it can affect the treatment your doctor provides.
Plus, you may have gynecologic issues you didn’t even realize were red flags. It’s hard to strike up a conversation with friends and family about menstruation, discharge, fertility struggles and other female woes. Seeing a doctor will either verify you’re healthy or provide you with a treatment method that will bring you back to normal.
3. Exams Ensure You’re Healthy
Your gynecologist won’t just ask you questions about your health — they’ll also perform exams to ensure your reproductive system is in good shape. These exams might be slightly uncomfortable, but they’re routine for a reason.
You should go in for a pap smear once every three to five years if you’re 21 years of age or older. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the same age group should get a pelvic exam at least once a year. This is particularly true if you experience any symptoms, such as irregular vaginal discharge, infertility, menstrual disorders or pelvic pain.
Pap smears are an integral part of your reproductive health. The quick test can reveal to your doctors if you have any abnormal cells that could turn into cancer. To that end, your gynecologist can perform a breast exam, too, once you’re 40 or older. This is another way to screen for cancer, which becomes increasingly important as women age.
Between visits, be sure to do your due diligence by performing at-home exams, too. For example, you might detect a lump in your breast before you’re scheduled to see your OB/GYN, or you might notice a change in your vaginal discharge that should be examined ASAP. Together with your doctor, you can keep up with an exam schedule that ensures you’re in good health — or taking steps to return to that state.
Remember, your at-home exams don’t override the need to visit the doctor — professionals can spot issues the untrained eye cannot.
4. Help with Maintaining Sexual Health
Your sexual health plays a big part in your reproductive health, and your gynecologist is prepared to help you in both areas. One of the many reasons you should see your gynecologist is to have an STD screening. You might be experiencing symptoms, like itching or sores, or you could be completely unaware you’re suffering from one. If you have sex with a new partner, it’s always smart to see your gynecologist to check and make sure you’re still STD-free.
If you’re sexually active, you can visit your OB/GYN for a discussion regarding your birth control options. Your doctor’s expert knowledge and opinions can help match you with the right preventative measure for every stage of your life. If you start experiencing any pain or other adverse side effects after having sex, they can figure out the cause of that, too. All you have to do is make an appointment.
5. Build Support During Pregnancy
You might be visiting your OB/GYN because you’re pregnant or want to become pregnant. We’ve already touched on the fact that these doctors can help you overcome any fertility issues, but they’re also there throughout your healthy pregnancy and delivery, too.
Sticking with the same healthcare provider throughout your nine-month pregnancy means all your information will be in one place. Your doctor will be familiar with any underlying health issues you have, too, which means they can provide more customized care. Plus, building a healthy relationship with your OB/GYN will make your delivery a more comfortable experience, since you can choose to enlist their assistance during labor, too.
Schedule Your Yearly Visit
All these benefits come from one person: Your OB/GYN. Take the best possible care of yourself and your reproductive system by scheduling your yearly appointment now — and feel a wave of relief knowing that you are, indeed, as healthy as you can be.