Nine Reasons to Visit your OBGYN Annually

Doctor and patient

There isn’t a woman out there that looks forward to a pelvic exam. The thought of cold hands, the classic speculum, even the uncomfortable paper gown - it’s just not something that has us jumping for joy. So when recent news came out citing potential changes in the recommendations for pelvic exams, it likely had women across the country celebrating.

Before you cheer the idea of these new recommendations, keep one thing in mind - that yearly exam is still not to be missed. Yes, much of the discomfort that comes with the pelvic exam might be less frequent, but the importance of visiting your GYN annually should still make scheduling an appointment a priority.

Here are nine reasons to keep up with your yearly well-woman GYN visits:

  • Let’s talk about birth control - Life changes and the birth control method that was right for you last year may not be the best for you this year. New options appear all the time. There is no one better to talk this through with than your GYN and this conversation is one that happens at your yearly visit.
  • Preventive care - As a woman, we are lucky in that there is a specialized physician out there to not only deal with our bodies, but also counsel us on ways that we can stay healthy overall as a woman. Having the opportunity to discuss ways that we can be healthier in our lives - from our diets to exercise to our mental health - with someone that is an expert in treating women is a privilege that should not be missed.
  • Clinical breast exam - Ideally we will be giving ourselves self-breast-exams monthly. But, it is reassuring to have an expert perform an easy, quick and painless breast exam once a year just to back up the idea that what we are feeling is normal (for us) and nothing to be concerned about. An experience professional might feel or see something that causes concern that might be missed at home.
  • Vaccinations - The annual GYN exam is also a good time to go over what vaccinations you may need such as the flu or pneumovax. An important vaccination for young women to get is the HPV vaccine. At a woman’s first GYN visit (likely around age 18), it is important to make sure this vaccine is to date if it has not already been given.
  • Let’s talk about sex - Concerns about intercourse for those young and old can be discussed openly at this appointment. Whether it is to talk about concerns of possible sexually transmitted infections, birth control options or even pain during intercourse, your GYN should be a clinician that you feel comfortable talking about these issues with.
  • So you may have a bit of leaking - Incontinence is not necessarily a subject that women shout from the rooftops (though quite honestly it is incredibly common condition). Your gynecologist can be a first stop for you to discuss options for helping minimize this problem or refer you to someone that specializes in urogynecology.
  • Discussing Aunt Flo - Having a conversation about your period can tell your gynecologist a lot about your health. Is your bleeding consistent each month? Does your period come every month? How heavy is your period? Are the symptoms surrounding your period causing an incredible amount of discomfort? Do you have bleeding in between periods? These are all simple questions that can tip your gynecologist off that something is wrong.
  • Preconception counseling - If you are in the childbearing years of your life and planning a family, it is extremely important to think ahead and create a healthy environment for you to conceive. Talking with your gynecologist about vitamin/nutrient intake, family history, and lifestyle are all important conversations that help lead to a successful pregnancy.
  • Mental health and wellness - Most women have times in their lives where their emotions are astray. Whether it is early on in life, postpartum, menopause driven or for no known reason at all, it is important to have someone that you can feel comfortable talking to. Your well-woman exam is a welcome time to talk openly about how you are feeling.

So yes, the pelvic exam may not be required as frequently as it used to. Things change in health care daily based on evidence based practice. One thing is for sure, evidence points to the importance of preventive care in women’s health and the above are just a few of the reasons why that annual appointment is so incredibly important.

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