If you’re feeling relatively healthy, you may intentionally forego — or subconsciously forget — an annual well woman appointment with your OB/GYN. But coming to the office regularly (even when you’re in good health) is a critical part of your overall wellness.
Many women’s health conditions and complications are asymptomatic and can be difficult for the untrained eye to notice. Early detection on issues like these is absolutely essential and can increase your chances for more successful treatment. In this way, skipping even one year can make a big difference.
Here is a closer look at some of the other services that you would be missing out on.
Breast cancer is one of the top concerns for many women. As mentioned above, early detection is important for catching the disease in an early, more manageable stage. While self-breast checks are also recommended, getting evaluated by a professional can also offer priceless peace of mind.
But that isn’t the only thing your OB/GYN can look for. Cervical cancer is another major condition that is impossible to self-diagnose. Plus, a whole portfolio of sexually transmitted diseases can be screened for all at once, including HIV, HPV, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and more. This is especially important for sexually active people, even if you don’t have any of the normal signs.
Every phase of life brings new menstrual changes, and many of them can be difficult to navigate alone. In the early days, assistance may be needed to track normal periods. Hormonal birth control options are available to help regulate cycles as needed and also offer relief for negative side effects.
Later in life, focus will shift to the menopause process. After many years of menstruation, this process is often challenging in new and unexpected ways for many women. To help manage expectations and navigate new terrain, your OB/GYN will be an invaluable resource. Their assistance will also be helpful with elements of perimenopausal and postmenopausal care.
Your OB/GYN is also the perfect place to start your family planning process. Even if right now family planning means pregnancy prevention, you can lean on your provider to walk you through available birth control options. This includes IUDs, the Nuva ring, a Nexplanon, and many others to best fit your lifestyle.
Of course, if you decide you’re ready to start a family, your OB/GYN will quickly become one of your most valuable medical providers. From prenatal appointments to regular pregnancy check-ins, your OB/GYN will be a valuable advocate for you and your baby. After the delivery of your child, postnatal care will become your next focus, and your provider will be able to help you heal and recover from the pregnancy.
If you’re struggling with infertility, the best place to start the conversation is at your women’s health office. Your OB/GYN can perform initial evaluations and some procedures. Should you need to see a specialist, your provider will be able to make a referral to another medical facility.
Even with so many specialty services, your OB/GYN can also provide insight for more standard medical issues. Many providers are able to offer immunizations and blood pressure screenings at your annual well woman exam. You can also ask questions about how you can reach any other health goals you may have.
One of the biggest underappreciated benefits of regular women’s health care visits is having a provider who truly understands your medical history — including your family history. Tracking this information makes your OB/GYN uniquely qualified to answer your questions and provide treatments that will work best for you.