The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that a teen should have their first gynecologic visit at around age fifteen unless she is having any gynecological problems and needs to do so earlier. Some of the common teen gynecologic problems we treat at Marsha K Howerton, MD Obstetrics and Gynecology are:
- Heavy Bleeding
- Menstrual Cramps
- Pelvic and abdominal pain
- Delayed first period
At your first visit you may choose to have a parent or other adult you feel comfortable with accompany you during your appointment. You also have the choice to meet privately with the physician or nurse practitioner, so you may feel more comfortable with the opportunity to speak with a knowledgeable professional about birth control, safe sex and STDs. If you have not already been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) this would be a good time to discuss this with the physician or nurse practitioner. You should schedule a pelvic exam and Pap test shortly after you become sexually active or around age twenty-one.
Women in Their Twenties and Thirties
One of the most beneficial things a young woman can do to ensure a long, healthy life is to develop healthy eating and fitness habits that will create a foundation of healthy living for their future. A diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods containing calcium and Vitamin D will benefit you now as well as in the future. Get at least thirty minutes of exercise a day such as vigorous walking, running, or other aerobic activity. It is also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to get eight hours of sleep each night. In addition, we encourage you to get into the habit of performing self-breast exams each month to familiarize yourself with your normal breast tissue; which may make it easier to detect possible abnormalities sooner.
By age twenty-one you should have your first annual pelvic exam. This exam will establish a baseline of what is normal for you as well as detect if there are any problems your physician needs to address. An annual exam includes a pelvic and breast exam, Pap test, urine screening, and blood pressure check. There may be other tests or screenings your physician or nurse practitioner may feel necessary to perform depending on your particular situation.
Your physician or nurse practitioner will also discuss birth control options with you and help you decide which method you feel most comfortable with. If you are thinking about starting a family, your physician or nurse practitioner will provide you with information and guidelines that will lead to a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
Women in Their Forties
This can be a very busy time in a woman’s life with the ever present obligations of career and family. With all of life’s demands, it’s easy to put your needs last. However, in addition to maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to exercise regularly, it is very important to your overall health to take time to relax. Try to set aside at least thirty minutes a day to relax and do something you enjoy. These healthy habits will help give you the strength and energy you need to manage your busy life.
Starting at age 40, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women have annual screening mammograms. Routine mammography is started at this age to help detect cancer during its early stages; making it easier to treat. Continue to perform your monthly self-breast exams and notify your physician immediately if you notice a lump or any changes in your normal breast tissue.
Many women at this stage in their lives feel that their family is complete and they may begin to think about permanent birth control. If you are considering permanent birth control, schedule an appointment with your physician or nurse practitioner to discuss your options.
During your forties you may begin to experience pre-menopausal symptoms as your body begins to produce less estrogen. These symptoms may include missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings. It is important to discuss these symptoms with your physician or nurse practitioner. She will be able to evaluate your symptoms and suggest treatments that may alleviate some of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Women Fifty and Older
In order to avoid illness and serious medical conditions in the future, women ages 50 and older need to follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Continuing with your annual mammograms and gynecological exams is also crucial to your overall health.
At this time, you may have started or continue to experience the symptoms of menopause which include mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. You should discuss these symptoms with your physician or nurse practitioner so she can suggest treatment options that are right for you.
Osteoporosis is a concern for many women starting in their fifties as this may develop due to your lower estrogen levels. It is a disease characterized by bone loss which can lead to fractures. Osteoporosis is not a natural result of aging. It is preventable. Therefore, all women should talk with their physician about keeping their bones strong; especially those at higher risk. Preventive methods are especially important because osteoporosis is not curable. A simple, painless bone density test done in our office can determine whether you are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Some women in their fifties may begin to experience symptoms of stress urinary incontinence and/or pelvic organ prolapse. Stress urinary incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine upon sneezing, laughing, or other similar stresses. Pelvic organ prolapse refers to the drooping or relaxation of pelvic floor organs which include the bladder, uterus, vagina, small intestine and rectum. This occurs when the muscles and tissues supporting the organs weaken. Women with this condition usually experience pressure in the pelvis and/or changes in their urinary or bowel habits. Our physician and nurse practitioners are very experienced with diagnosing and treating these conditions in a sensitive manner – allowing you to resume a normal, active life.
The providers at Howerton Obstetrics and Gynecology strive to be valued partners with each patient; helping each woman maintain a healthy, active lifestyle throughout all the changes in her life.