Seeing your general healthcare practitioner or an OB-GYN for an annual exam is a great practice. You can think of the annual exam as a screening test for both the pelvis and the breasts. Depending upon your history, you may or may not get a pap smear during your exam. Most people require a pap smear once every three to five years, with the exception of people infected with Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV), in which case a yearly exam is usually recommended.
These annual exams should be started at the age of 21, although sexually active people of all ages should undergo testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and should use contraception if they do not wish to get pregnant. People not using birth control or not in mutually monogamous relationships should ensure that they always use condoms. If you have multiple partners, then getting yearly STD checks is crucial.
If you have a particular condition, you might wish to have more than one visit to the OB-GYN each year. Conditions such as infertility, pregnancy, uterine fibroids, irregular bleeding, breast problems, and ovarian cysts may compel people to see the OB-GYN frequently. If you are experiencing any of the above, then make an appointment to see your family doctor or OB-GYN instead of waiting for your annual exam.
What to expect during the visit to the OB-GYN?
A comprehensive history of your overall health may be taken during your routine visit to a healthcare provider or an OB-GYN. Any issues you have with your vaginal health and overall well-being will be discussed during the appointment, and you will undergo a pelvic and breast exam. If necessary, a pap smear test may also be taken.
This visit also offers an opportunity to discuss birth control methods and STI testing. Depending upon the risk factors present, such as being over the age of forty, a rectal exam may also be performed as a part of the pelvic exam.
What should I know about hormonal birth control?
The therapeutic effects of hormonal birth control go beyond its use as a contraceptive. It is used in the treatment of many different gynecological problems, such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, fibroids, and heavy menstruation to alleviate the symptoms.
Hormonal birth control is a reliable contraception method and decreases or eliminates menstruation. However, compliance with the dosage schedule is necessary for its effectiveness. It carries risks such as irregular bleeding and blood clots (especially with estrogen-containing contraception) so always talk to your healthcare provider about associated risks. People experiencing migraine with aura may wish to avoid this form of contraception as it increases the risk of stroke. However, only a small proportion of the population will experience these side effects, and it is a perfectly safe form of birth control for most people.
What if I am anxious about my appointment because I haven’t been to the OB-GYN in a while?
It is completely normal to be anxious about booking a doctor’s appointment, especially when you haven’t seen a doctor for a long time. Nevertheless, your health is a priority so you should get a checkup for screening and prevention of diseases. Yearly visits to the doctor are crucial because a doctor will be able to spot any symptoms that you may have missed, such as a cyst or a lump in the breast.
Try to find an OB/GYN or vaginal health expert that you can trust and feel comfortable discussing your health with. Choosing a doctor you are at ease with can make a huge difference in your experience.