The female body is unique, sensitive, strong, and complex. For a woman to take proper care of her body, she needs to go beyond the typical check-ups with her family doctor. That’s where the gynecologist comes in. And while some women might cringe a little at the idea of visiting the gynecology office, having a caring and compassionate physician that you feel comfortable with will make a big difference in your feminine health.
How Can You Prevent Gynecological Problems?
At Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA, we’re all about a trusting and informed patient-doctor relationship that takes into account your overall health – not just your reproductive organs. For us, that is what gynecology is all about, and is key to preventing any problems that might arise. Let’s look at what we include in our health check-ups, what you should be doing to take care of yourself, and how to create a medical care routine for your healthiest life.
What Is Gynecology?
Looked at from the most basic standpoint, your OB-GYN (which stands for obstetrics and gynecology) doctor takes care of diseases and routine physical care for women’s reproductive systems. But it covers more than that. Comprehensive care of your body includes far more than just your reproductive organs. Your doctor is there to check several areas of your body that are specific to you as a female, as well as help you through pregnancy and birth, menopause, and more.
The Areas of the Body Included
When you visit your gynecologist, you can expect them to ask about and examine several areas of the body. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Endometrium (which is the lining of the uterus)
Each of these areas is included in your OB-GYN’s field of expertise, from preventive care to treatment and beyond. In addition, your gynecologist can also treat for any hormonal imbalances or conditions that affect the entire body. Think of your gynecology doctor as an expert with specialized knowledge in women’s health.
Conditions We’re on the Lookout For
You might wonder why it’s recommended to see your gynecologist so often, or what you would even need to see them for. With this attitude, it’s easy to put off appointments until you sense a real problem. But when you go in for routine checkups, your doctor is looking for conditions that typically don’t show symptoms until later, when the situation is more difficult to treat. Some of these conditions include:
- Ovarian cysts
- Hormonal imbalances
- Cervical dysplasia (which is abnormal cervix cells)
- Uterine fibroids
- Urinary incontinence
- Cervical cancer
- HPV (the human papillomavirus)
- Amenorrhea (which is one or more missed menstruation cycles or the absence of menstruation)
- Abnormal menstruation cycles
- Sexually transmitted infections
It’s important that you see your OB-GYN regularly to check for these conditions and others, which can show little or no symptoms. The sooner these conditions are detected, the better your doctor can treat them. All women need to have these conditions checked regularly, despite age or overall well-being.
How Can I Take Care of Myself at Home?
Your reproductive organs and your body as a whole are beautiful and need to be treated with care and respect. Loving your feminine features and accepting them through self-care is one of the best ways to prevent any gynecological problems in the future. The first step to properly taking care of your reproductive system is by treating it in a positive light. It is beautiful, life-giving, and healthy, and your body should be treated as such!
Taking care of your body starts with hygiene. Avoid any strong soaps when it comes to keeping your vulva and vagina clean, as the vagina has its own unique cleaning system which is quite self-sufficient. Douching is a big no-no because of this, as it will wash out the good bacteria your vagina needs to keep the right pH balance. You should also wear light, breathable underwear so the area doesn’t get too moist, which encourages the wrong bacteria to grow.
Another key component to taking good care of your reproductive organs is practicing safe sex. With more than 20 sexually transmitted diseases out there, this component of self-care is to be taken very seriously, as it can affect your overall health and lifestyle. Be sure to have an open conversation with your partner or partners and your doctor about how to best take care of your reproductive health in your sexual relationship(s).
Diet and Exercise
Your menstrual cycle and reproductive health depend a lot on your weight and overall diet, so it’s important to eat a varied diet with lots of water and fiber. Keeping your digestive tract regular will relieve any pressure on your pelvic floor, which can in turn reduce menstrual cramping. There are also certain foods that will boost the good bacteria your vagina needs to stay healthy, such as yogurt.
In the same way, exercising can boost your overall health, which includes your reproductive system. Maintaining a balanced weight can help with missed periods and heavy periods alike, and gentle exercises such as yoga can help to reduce any pelvic pain you might be experiencing.
Self-Examination of the Breasts
While some areas can only be checked by your gynecologist for a proper examination (such as your cervix), you should also be checking for any abnormal lumps or bumps on your body regularly. This includes your breasts, which you should examine at least once a month by palpating over the entire breast, nipple, and underarm area to feel for any lumps that might have emerged.
If you do feel something new or abnormal, be sure to make an appointment with your gynecologist as soon as possible to have it checked out.
Signs That You Need to See the Doctor
While maintaining an overall wellness system at home for your self-care, it’s also important to not wait if you are experiencing any symptoms that are abnormal for you or are causing you any concern. This includes any symptoms pertaining to your period, your reproductive system, or even your overall well-being. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN to have these symptoms checked out.
Some common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for as a reason to visit the doctor include:
- One or more missed periods
- Abnormal bleeding, between or during menstruation
- Menstrual pain
- Any signs of infection (abnormal odor, discharge color, itching)
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Incontinence problems
- Chronic swelling or bloating
- Fatigue or general malaise
Any of these symptoms and others are a reason to call your gynecologist and get an appointment as soon as possible.
How Often Should I Go to the Gynecologist?
Starting around the age of 13 to 15 years old, you should begin to see your gynecologist once each year. Maintaining this practice for the rest of your life will be crucial in preventing any gynecological problems or catching them early for optimal treatment.
During your routine, yearly checkup, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam – checking your cervix, ovaries, vagina, and vulva – as well as a breast exam. You can also expect a Pap test, which is a painless exam to check for any signs of cancer or infection. This test is only preliminary, and while it normally comes back negative, it can detect early signs of any issues. In this case, your doctor will order additional tests to determine treatment as soon as possible.
This early detection is crucial in preventing more serious health concerns later. Many of the conditions that are tested in these yearly visits don’t show any symptoms until they are at a much later stage when treatment will be less effective or more difficult to administer. Even infections can take many months to fully present themselves, thus why scheduling an annual appointment is essential, even if you are feeling fine.
If you are experiencing any concerns or symptoms, the comprehensive care that we provide for women’s health can include a number of screenings, exams, and treatments.
Here are a few examples:
These are benign tumors that form along the uterus wall, and typically they don’t require any treatment or cause many symptoms. But, sometimes they can cause some discomfort, including longer periods, cramping, pain in the lower back or upper legs, bowel issues, or even bladder problems. If you are experiencing these symptoms because of fibroids, they can be removed surgically or your doctor can prescribe a medication to control their growth.
You might not think that this condition falls under the routine care of gynecology. But because it concerns the pelvic floor, it most certainly does. Urinary incontinence is caused by muscle weakness around the bladder, meaning that you lose control when any pressure is placed on the bladder. The treatment for this condition can include physical therapy and medication.
Associated with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), taking as many preventive steps as possible to screen for cervical cancer is very important. This condition can be treated successfully when caught early.
These are fluid-filled sacs that appear in the ovaries and are very common. Typically, these cysts are harmless, but they can cause significant discomfort if they grow too large. This can include swelling, pain during sex, bloating, and even tenderness in the breasts.
In very rare cases, they can even burst. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to let your gynecologist check for ovarian cysts. They can be removed in a simple surgery, and often the doctor will recommend birth control pills to keep any new cysts from forming.
Sometimes, the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, needs to be checked for abnormal tissue cells. This is done through a simple biopsy using a suction tube and does not require anesthesia. The tube is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus, where it will pull a sample of tissue from the endometrium for testing.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms mentioned above, your doctor will schedule these types of screenings to rule out any conditions that might need treatment. The gynecologist might also schedule these screenings if you have a family history of any of the conditions or the results of your annual pap smear show signs of a problem.
Give Back to Your Body
A woman’s body is complex and deserves the respect of being properly cared for. With preventative treatment, yearly checkups, and self-care at home, you can show your body love and prevent any gynecological problems that may come up in the future. Ready to take a step in the right direction for your reproductive health? Call us at Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA today to schedule your first appointment.