By Sue Sveum
Gynecologists serve an important function for all women. They monitor overall health, answer questions about birth control, assist in pelvic health concerns and work with expectant mothers.
“My patients range [in age] from 12 to 80-plus years old,” says Dr. Meghan Ogden, an SSM Health physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. “We see such a variety that no day and no patient is ever the same.” Some women see Ogden for routine wellness exams while others have a specific concern.
Younger women may experience issues such as heavy or painful periods. “That can really interfere with their life,” explains Ogden, “but we can evaluate and provide treatment options to improve their quality of life.”
Currently, Pap smears for cervical cancer screening are recommended starting at age 21. Ogden also recommends that women who are sexually active come in for STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing annually or more, since infections are often asymptomatic and can interfere with fertility if left untreated.
According to Ogden, many women wait until their yearly exams to bring up health concerns. Maybe they’re too embarrassed to talk about it or assume it’s “normal.” “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it,” stresses Ogden. “If something is bothering you, make an appointment to see if something is going on — or can be treated. Never feel like you have to wait.”
Whether you’re young or old(er), if you experience any of these issues see your gynecologist:
- Heavy or irregular bleeding
- Painful periods
- Pelvic pressure
- Vaginal discharge or itching
- Pain with intercourse
- Prolapse (bladder, rectum, uterus)
- Menopause or perimenopause concerns
- Preconception counseling
- Prenatal visits
- Having trouble getting pregnant (if you’re under age 35 and haven’t gotten pregnant within a year of trying; or, if you’re over age 35, after six months of trying)