What are the signs to see a gynecologist?

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Answered by: Jamie , An Expert in the About Female Reproductive Health Category
In the generations before us, women's health was something that wasn't openly discussed. Reproductive health wasn't regarded as a concern until there was a problem, and symptoms aren't always immediately apparent. The go-to solution in that time was a hysterectomy- a surgery to remove the uterus. This means those women could no longer get pregnant. Women were having children at a younger age and weren't as career-driven as the present, so major surgery to end childbearing possibilities was more of an option. Today, one would assume that women's health would be more prevalent in schools' sexual education classes, but that isn't true. It's become more of a responsibility on the individual to educate themselves about reproductive health. Even so, many women have a difficult time recognizing the signs that it may be time to schedule an appointment with the gynecologist. In the current healthcare reform situation, it's likely that many women won't see their reproductive health as a priority, but many problems could have life-altering effects in the future if left untreated. The best defense would be to learn about the signs to see a gynecologist. A good baseline would be to visit a gynecologist once a year for a standard checkup. This would include a pelvic exam and a pap smear, and women who are sexually active should receive testing for sexually transmitted diseases and infections. So, what exactly does the phrase "sexually active" mean? Women who have had any sexual experience in their lifetime should always answer "yes" when asked if they are sexually active. It's a common misconception that it means during a certain time period or with a certain amount of people. The truth is that many diseases can lay dormant for years, and symptoms aren't always apparent. It's also important to remember that there should be a high level of comfort and trust between a doctor and a patient, and there will never be any judgement.

Along with disease testing, a pelvic exam is part of a yearly checkup. While some mild discomfort is to be expected, it's important speak up if there is any pain during the exam. If there is reason to believe there may be any sort of growth, an ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries may be scheduled. There may also be a breast exam during a checkup. Along with the exams, there is also a questionnaire with all inquiries pertaining to reproductive health. It's important to keep complete honesty when answering the questions, and ask for clarification if there is uncertainty. Aside from yearly checkups, women should schedule an appointment with their doctor if there is any change or discomfort. One indicator for a concern would be any change in menstrual cycles. While cycles can normally change with weight, stress, medications, and hormonal changes, it also can signify a problem and shouldn't go ignored. Another sign would be vaginal bleeding not during menstruation. This would include excessive or unexplained bleeding, bleeding after sex, or irregular periods. Pain is also an indicator of an abnormality. While cramping is to be expected, any sharp or excessive pain should be acknowledged. Breast health is also something that should be monitored. While breasts can be naturally lumpy in general, if there is a sizeable lump or one that doesn't move when pushed, it should be reported to a doctor, along with any visual change in the appearance of the breasts.

Although it is important to voice major concerns during a gynecologist visit, it's also important to remember that all women have minor, everyday issues that can be helped by the doctor. While not cause for great concern, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and bacterial infections are problems all women have, and can be treated by a gynecologist as well as a primary doctor. Any discomfort should be reported to a doctor, no matter how small it may seem.

Women should remember to schedule a general checkup with their gynecologist once a year, while scheduling supplemental visits in between if there is reason for concern. It's important to regard reproductive health as a priority not just for future childbearing possibilities, but for current health and well-being. Always pay attention to the signs to see a gynecologist, and also remember that there is no judgement in the relationship between doctor and patient. Lastly, if the pain is unbearable, don't hesitate to go to the emergency room.

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