There have been a few updates in the field of gynecology that all women should know about. The first is that for most women, a pap test is only necessary every three to five years. In response to this information, my friends often ask me why they have to go to the gynecologist every year. I tell them that a pap test only evaluates the cervix, while other gynecologic organs need evaluation annually.
An annual gynecology exam can identify problems that may be prevented if found before symptoms develop, including skin cancer, vaginal cancer and ovarian masses, to name a few. An annual visit is also a great time to discuss family planning and address any health issues that can be sorted out pre-pregnancy. It also serves as an opportunity to talk about options for birth control if your family is complete, or if you wish to delay childbearing.
Like me, many of my friends have delayed starting a family to pursue career goals. We frequently discuss the potential difficulties related to pregnancy after the age of 30. The first myth I like to dispel is that fertility treatment is necessary to get pregnant after 30. If you are having monthly menses, you most likely have the ability to get pregnant without fertility specialist intervention. I tell my friends who are trying to get pregnant that their fertility declines gradually after 30, so it’s important to see a gynecologist if you’re still not pregnant after six months of trying.
Another common myth I hear is that women over 30-years-old are bound to have a high risk pregnancy. Women can generally expect to have an uncomplicated pregnancy if you are an overall a healthy person. This is why it is so important to see an obstetrician/gynecologist before getting pregnant. Having a preconception visit is the best time to identify risk factors and enact a plan to prevent foreseeable complications.
Whether you are seeking to maintain healthy habits with an annual gynecology exam, looking to start a family, or maybe you have a specific concern to discuss with a specialist, we will be happy to treat you as we treat all our patients—like family and friends.
Dr. Sarah Aultman is an obstetrician/gynecologist on staff at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center.
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