As the year comes to an end, it’s a good idea to start looking ahead to what you can do to improve and protect your health in the future. If you want to start the new year out right, consider scheduling a well-woman exam with your OB/GYN. When you do, your exam may include some or all of the following components.
All medical exams should begin with the healthcare provider getting your medical history. They’ll ask questions about your current and past health issues, procedures you’ve had done, and medications you’re on. They’ll also ask about any health issues that run in your family.
Your annual exam with your OB/GYN will include a general health screening. This includes measuring your height, weight, pulse rate, and blood pressure. Some screenings also include diabetes testing.
Most doctors recommend getting regular pelvic exams by age 21. A pelvic exam is a physical and visual examination of the female reproductive organs. The doctor will do an external examination of the vulva and an internal visual examination of the vagina and cervix using an instrument called a speculum. The doctor will also perform a physical exam by palpating the outside of your abdomen and then inserting two lubricated, gloved fingers into the vagina while pressing on the lower abdomen to check for abnormalities.
Clinical Breast Exam
The doctor will ask you to take off your shirt and bra so he or she can visually and physically examine your breasts for signs of cancer. The tips of the fingers are used to check for lumps or abnormality in the breast tissue, including the nipples and the armpits.
After age 21, it is recommended you start getting Pap tests to check for signs of cervical cancer. How often you get this test will depend on your age and the results of previous tests.
The Office on Women’s Health recommends the following:
- Women 21-29 get a Pap test every 3 years
- Women 30-65 get:
- A Pap test every 3 years, or
- An HPV test every 5 years, or
A Pap and HPV test together (co-testing) every 5 years
Birth Control Counseling
Your well-woman exam is the perfect time to discuss birth control options with your healthcare provider. Whether you want to start birth control for the first time, switch to a new type of medication, or stop using it, your doctor can counsel you on the options that are right for you.
During a well-woman exam, you can talk to your doctor about any vaccinations that may benefit you. One vaccine OB/GYNs often counsel women about is the HPV vaccine. Usually, the HPV vaccine is given to girls and young women under the age of 18, but according to the CDC, the vaccine is also recommended for adults up to 26 years old. Certain individuals between the ages of 27 and 45 may also benefit, but you should talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
At your well-woman exam, you will most likely be asked to give a urine sample before the exam begins. The urine sample is used to test for pregnancy, kidney function, and infection.
If you’re sexually active, periodic STD screening may be recommended. Getting tested regularly is important to avoid potential complications from sexually transmitted infections. If you have multiple partners, have a new partner, or have unprotected sex, you should be tested right away.
Depending on your age and medical history, your doctor may recommend that you get regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer. According to the Office on Women’s Health, women ages 50 to 74 should have a mammogram every two years. If you are younger than 50, your doctor can counsel you on whether you need a mammogram and how often to get them.
Discussing Your Other Health Concerns and Goals
It’s up to you what your well-woman exam includes as far as other health concerns and goals. Some topics an OB/GYN can help with include:
- Sexual issues
- Menstrual problems
- Weight management
- Urinary incontinence
- Family planning
- Quitting smoking
- Alcohol dependence
- Mental health
- Bone density
Make an Appointment for a Well-Woman Exam
The board-certified physicians at Green Valley OB/GYN have a combined 200 years of experience providing premium obstetric and gynecological care for the women in our community. If you want to start the year off right with a well-woman exam, call our Greensboro, NC office at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.