When you’re feeling just fine, heading to the doctor — especially the gynecologist — seems unnecessary. But, regular gynecological visits help ensure that you keep feeling well through all stages of your reproductive health.
Whether you’re a teen who just started her menstrual cycle, a woman thinking about getting pregnant, or a 50-year-old approaching menopause, the gynecological team at South Plains Rural Health Services is ready to help.
Regular visits to a gynecologist in all stages of your reproductive and pelvic organ health keep you feeling your best and can catch any major issues before they cause complications. But, how often is “regular”?
Here’s some guidance as to how often you should schedule an appointment with our gynecology team.
You may have always heard that annual (yearly) Pap smears are essential to your health. A Pap smear takes a swab of cells on your cervix to check for precancerous or cancerous cells. Even though a Pap smear is an essential preventive screening for cervical cancer, which leads to the death of more than 4,000 women a year, you may not need one every year.
Women should begin getting Pap smears at age 21. If you have normal results, your Pap test may be performed just every three years. After age 30, you also benefit from an HPV (human papillomavirus) test to check for this virus that’s commonly transmitted through sexual activity.
Once you have no signs of HPV and normal Pap smears, you can extend your Pap screenings to every five years. After age 65, most women no longer require Pap smears.
If you ever do have abnormal results from a Pap smear or if you test positive for HPV, it’s important to get more frequent screening. We can help you put together an appropriate schedule.
Just because you don’t need a Pap smear at every visit doesn’t mean you should stop seeing the gynecologist for pelvic exams.
A pelvic exam evaluates the general health of your organs, like the vagina, breasts, uterus, and vulva. During a pelvic exam, your doctor can also check for sexually transmitted diseases or other complications.
Women aged 21-29 benefit from a yearly visit. This is the time that complications with your menstrual cycle, fertility, or sexually transmitted infections most likely occur.
After age 30, you may extend your visits to every other year if you’re in generally good health, not pregnant, and not being treated for any illnesses.
When you’re entering perimenopause (the years prior to menopause) and menopause, you benefit from yearly visits to your gynecologist. We can help you manage uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog, and vaginal dryness. We can also get you started with regular mammograms once you’ve reached age 40.
As you pass through menopause, your risk of certain health problems, like osteoporosis and heart disease, increases. We can help keep you healthy and provide appropriate screenings and preventive care.
If you’re having unusual symptoms, like irregular or heavy periods, vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain, please make an appointment at our offices outside of your regular exam.
If any unusual symptoms are related to a health problem, like a sexually transmitted disease, uterine fibroids, or a urinary tract infection, early treatment can help you avoid complications that could affect your long-term fertility and health.
Your reproductive and pelvic organ health is essential to your overall wellbeing and quality of life. Call the nearest location today, or use the online tool to set up an appointment with our women’s health specialists.