Getting a checkup even when you’re generally healthy is crucial to maintaining your good health, and that’s especially important when it comes to your annual well-woman exam.
Usually scheduled with an OB-GYN physician, a well-woman visit focuses on health maintenance and disease prevention. Whether you’re a college student or past menopause, your OB-GYN can be a resource for education, support, risk assessment and more.
Historically, annual well-woman exams were synonymous with a Pap smear, an important screening test for cervical cancer. In 2021, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated their guidelines to no longer recommend an annual Pap test, but the organization still stresses the need to see your OB-GYN at least once a year because those visits are important for more than just a single exam. Here are a few of the things your OB-GYN can help with:
Birth control — Your OB-GYN can help you decide which method is best for you.
Cancer screening — Discuss your risk for breast cancer, cervical cancer and other reproductive system cancers.
Health maintenance — Things like diabetes, high blood pressure and weight can all affect your reproductive health; your provider can assess your risk and recommend screening or lifestyle changes.
Mental health — If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, especially if you’ve had a baby in the last 12 months, your annual visit is a great time to share your concerns with your OB-GYN.
Reproductive concerns — Let your provider know about any abnormal menstrual cycles, unusual aches and pains or menopause symptoms. Your OB-GYN can help you prepare for changes to your cycle and other symptoms, depending on your age and other factors.
Sexual health concerns — Your OB-GYN can help address concerns like lack of libido, vaginal dryness, and pain during intercourse, as well as provide interventions.
Pregnancy and infertility counseling — Discuss plans for future pregnancy and learn what to do if you haven’t become pregnant while trying.
Vaccinations — Many OB-GYN offices offer routine vaccinations or can direct you to the right place to get them.
Prepare for your visit by making sure you have any relevant information like current medications and any updates to your health history. Make a list of questions for your provider, and remember you can take notes during your visit so you can revisit these important conversations later.
- Tips for self-advocacy when talking to your doctor (Kith + Kin blog)
- Get your well-woman visit every year (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- Scheduling an annual well-woman exam (Sutter Health Plus)