The Importance of a Yearly Visit to Your OB/GYN or Midwife
Visits to your healthcare provider are a great way to keep tabs on your health and stay on track in leading a longer and healthier life. For women, this includes a yearly visit with an OB/GYN or midwife. By skipping a yearly annual exam, a woman increases her risks of developing gynecologic cancers and other health-related issues.
Depending on each woman’s personal medical history and exam findings, the most current recommendations for all types of screenings are constantly changing and vary significantly. Your provider can advise you at your annual exam about follow-up and appropriate screening tests.
Until recently, women were required to have a screening Pap test during their annual gynecologic exam. The standard for a screening Pap test is now every three years beginning at age 21. From then on, how often a screen Pap test will be repeated depends on the findings. Here are a few other points for women to consider:
- Women who are under 21 years old and are sexually active should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
- Educating teens about pregnancy, birth control, STDs and safety is an important part of their yearly exam.
- Women who take hormonal birth control should monitor side effects and have their blood pressure monitored regularly.
- Healthcare providers can asses a woman’s genetic risks at her annual appointment.
- A woman’s menstrual changes and other symptoms can be addressed.
- The OB/GYN or midwife is often the only provider who healthy women see regularly. The physical exam includes blood pressure, weight and skin checks, and a thyroid, breast and pelvic exam. All of these exams may reveal issues that require follow-up.
The annual exam is an important learning opportunity for women. Studies show that addressing weight problems, smoking, alcohol, and the use of prescription and recreational drugs has an effect on women’s actions. Likewise, sometimes it is during the annual exam that women acknowledge relationship issues, depression or abuse. The exam can also provide the opportunity for advice about vitamin use, exercise and other factors affecting a healthy lifestyle in which the provider can offer support and referral services.
The biggest risk of not having an annual exam is not finding potential breast or cervical cancer. An annual exam can keep you healthy and potentially save your life. Also, screenings for STDs that may have long-term effects on fertility or that could even be life-threatening would be missed.
To learn more about women’s health services, visit www.crozerkeystone.org. Call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) for a referral to a CKHS OB/GYN or midwife who is right for you.
Reviewed by Rebecca Choitz, C.N.M., director of Midwifery Services at Crozer-Keystone Health System.