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What questions should you ask your gynecologist?

An obstetrician-gynecologist is a physician who specializes in women’s care. They can treat women of different ages, from childhood to old age. A gynecologist is qualified to treat different conditions that affect women and also provide preventive care to prevent a patient from developing certain diseases. It is for this reason that it is extremely important to visit your gynecologist frequently. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends annual visits to the gynecologist. These annual visits help to provide preventive care and to treat some existing conditions.

You may be wondering; at what age should I begin seeing a gynecologist?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, recommends that the first routine visit should be in adolescence, specifically between the ages of 13 and 15. This first visit serves to establish trust with the gynecologist and to identify and manage existing conditions.

At an initial visit in adolescence (13-18 years by ACOG’s definition), we can explore various conditions that may be present at this stage. It is also an opportunity for the adolescent to clarify any questions she may have.

Well, for a teenager it can be very stressful to go to the gynecologist, especially because they are afraid of being checked. It should be clarified that the vast majority of the time, these patients will not need a pelvic exam, unless it is indicated by some symptom present and, if so, this examination will be done in the most comfortable way for her.

It is extremely important to explore menstruation at this age and normal pubertal development. It is at this time that you should explore what is normal and what is not. The gynecologist will be able to help you identify if there are any abnormalities in your development or menstrual cycles and treat them.

Questions to ask your gynecologist if you are between the ages of 13-18:

At what age is the first menstrual period normal?

Is it normal to have irregular menses or heavy bleeding?

Is my development normal for my age?

If you decide to be sexually active, what methods should I use to protect myself?

You should ask about sexually transmitted diseases and what you should do to avoid them.

If I don’t want to get pregnant, what methods are available to prevent pregnancy?

If you have menstrual cramps, are they normal?

If you have pelvic pain outside of menstruation, is this normal?

Risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and/or using controlled substances should also be explored.

Eating habits should be discussed in order to identify if there are any abnormalities in them.

Finally, you should ask if you have any questions about your development and reproductive health.

Most patients who visit the gynecologist do so in their reproductive years, defined by ACOG as 19-45 years of age. For these ages, your annual visit with your gynecologist is also extremely important. These visits help us identify conditions that can be prevented or existing conditions that can be treated. Gynecologists often have to do a complete exam for patients in this age group.

ACOG recommends that beginning at age 21, patients should have a pelvic exam every year, but the decision whether or not to do so in asymptomatic patients is up to the gynecologist and the patient. Before the age of 21, a pelvic examination is recommended in patients who have any symptoms that warrant it.

One question patient may have been when to begin cervical cancer screening or PAP smears. Some health organizations say it should be started at 21 years of age. In addition to cervical cancer tests, the gynecologist can help you with different aspects of your health, but what can you ask your gynecologist at this stage?

When should I have a PAP test and how often should I have it?

If you notice irregularities or heavy bleeding in your menstrual periods, you should explore them and discuss them with your gynecologist.

If you are sexually active, what methods should I use to protect myself from sexually transmitted diseases?

If I do not want to get pregnant, what methods are available to prevent pregnancy?

If I want to get pregnant, but have had difficulties, what options do I have to get pregnant?

If you have pain during or outside of menstruation, are these normal, and what treatments are available?

What routine tests should I have to maintain proper health?

If you have problems with sexual intercourse, such as pain, dryness, lack of desire, or orgasm, you should also discuss these with your gynecologist.

If you are pregnant, you can explore with your obstetrician-gynecologist the different stages of your pregnancy and the different symptoms you may have.

Another age group is mature patients, by ACOG definition, which are patients between the ages of 46-64 years old. This group of patients has different needs than the other groups and their questions may vary as well. In these patients, it is important to look at their general health status and do routine tests for their age group, such as mammograms starting at age 40. In this group of patients, many patients begin to feel the symptoms of menopause, so if you have these symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and lack of sexual desire, discuss it with your gynecologist at your appointment. It is extremely important to continue cervical cancer screening in this age group.

Finally, ACOG mentions the over-64 age group as the other group of women that gynecologists see. This group has additional care needs. Some patients may still have menopausal symptoms and it is important to explore this with your gynecologist if this is the case. Another important health issue in these patients is osteoporosis. At this age, bone densitometry tests are started in order to diagnose this condition. It is important that your doctor send you this test if you are over 65 years old or if you have any risk factors for developing this condition.

Remember that the gynecologist is the doctor who takes care of your health, woman and that you should develop a relationship of trust with your gynecologist throughout the different stages of your life.

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