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Before your annual exam, do you take the time to think about any questions or sexual health concerns you may have? Or do you rely on your health care provider to steer the conversation? While your health care provider will ask important questions during your exam, it’s important for you to come to the visit prepared to discuss items that will affect your personal health. Consider your time with your provider as an interactive, non-judgmental conversation, not just a physical examination. Here are some of the most frequent questions many women have when they think about their sexual health:
1.Are my periods normal?
If you’re having irregular periods or experiencing severe discomfort or heavy bleeding, you need to tell your health care provider. Your doctor can work with you to determine what is causing this irregularity. If severe cramping or heavy bleeding is occurring, your doctor may suggest appropriate measures to help regulate your cycle.
2.Should I be on birth control?
Over half (55%) of the nearly three million unplanned pregnancies that occur each year in the U.S. happen to women in their twenties. And one million of those occur to women in their early twenties. If you are sexually active and do not want to have a baby, make sure you discuss birth control with your provider. While condoms and spermicides are generally effective with proper use, prescription hormonal methods of birth control have a higher rate of effective protection against pregnancy.
3.Why do I get yeast infections and/or urinary tract infections (UTIs) so frequently?
This type of infection is actually quite common for women. Your provider can work with you to find solutions. Some women get UTIs with greater frequency, but there are some common contributing factors that may increase your susceptibility to infection, such as having diabetes or a suppressed immune system. Even rough sex can distribute the bacteria in the vaginal region, posing an increased risk for UTIs. If you think you may be at an increased risk for UTIs, be sure to talk to your gynecologist about what treatment options are available.
4. My mother/sister/grandmother had breast cancer. Should I be concerned?
Only five to ten percent of breast cancer is hereditary; your health care provider may want to investigate further to better understand your risk. Other risk factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer include being younger when you first had your menstrual period, starting menopause at a later age, or being older at the birth of your first child. Whether it’s cancer or other diseases, it’s important to offer your health care provider a detailed personal and genetic health history, information you may need to proactively obtain from immediate family members. With this information in hand, your provider can conduct regular screenings to catch conditions at early stages and discuss available treatment options with you.