I'm not having babies, I don't need a GYN...or do I?

A well woman exam is more than just a pap smear and a mammogram. It is an opportunity to bring up any health concerns you may have and a chance for your provider to screen for any health problems that could develop. Every annual exam will cover the basics; medical history, surgical history, family history, allergies, and current medications, but depending on the patient's age a variety of other topics may be discussed. Some gynecologic topics that may be covered include contraception, sexually transmitted infections, menstrual cycles, menopausal symptoms, sexual health and family planning. Other topics that are commonly discussed are depression screening, vaccinations, healthy and safe relationships, weight loss, urinary concerns, and cancer screening. Because well woman exams cover such a range, they are recommended annually for all women 13 years and older.

Age 13-17: Young women in this group are experiencing a variety of changes physically, emotionally and socially. Puberty is a great time to initiate regular GYN care as it provides a safe and reliable place for the patient to ask questions or share concerns.

Age 18-21: Women in this group may be living on their own for the first time, are legally allowed to partake in alcohol and tobacco and may be sexually active. This new independence makes this the ideal time to transition the responsibility for the patient's health from her parents to herself.  

Age 22-39: The prime reproductive years are when women see their OBGYNs most frequently however well woman visits sometimes are forgotten in lieu of OB visits or simply forgotten in the hustle of a busy life. 

Age 40-49: As women transition out of the reproductive years, they may start to develop menopausal symptoms or other medical concerns that arise with age. 

Ages 50-64: Similar to puberty, women in this age group may have recently undergone or will be going through a large change in their hormones. The average age of menopause is 51 years old. 

Over 75: In general, patients in this group no longer require routine pap smears however they can still benefit from regular well woman exams. 

Author
Dr. Gottschalk Dr. Kathryn Gottschalk OBGYN

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