Why Well-Woman Visits Are Important—And What to Ask
Ladies, it’s time to rethink your annual exam. Yearly well-woman visits with your healthcare provider—often with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN)—offer way more for your well-being than the pelvic exam and Pap test that likely come to mind.
Get the information you need
As a doctor who specializes in the care of women, your OB-GYN can provide a wide range of health-related education, counseling, and services throughout your lifetime. Depending on your needs at the time of the visit, you can address:
Screenings, such as those for breast and cervical cancers and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Prenatal, pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal care
Infertility evaluations and procedures, such as in vitro fertilization
Perimenopausal and postmenopausal care
Surgery, including abdominal and vaginal procedures
While OB-GYNs are specialists, they can also provide many primary care services, such as immunizations and blood pressure screenings. You can even work together to set and reach health goals, like starting an exercise routine, losing weight, or quitting smoking. Exercise, for example, may ease some pregnancy and menopause symptoms.
Track your health history and symptoms
Talking about your health history is a key component of each well-woman exam and important for staying healthy. You may be asked personal questions about the following topics:
Sexual health and partners
Health conditions that run in your family
Current use of medicines, vitamins, and herbs
Mental health history, including depression and anxiety
Substance use, such as alcohol and tobacco
Symptoms you’re experiencing, such as nipple discharge, pelvic pain, or pain when urinating
Just as important—be ready to ask your questions!
Get questions answered
No topic is off-limits during a well-woman visit. Remember that your provider discusses sensitive issues every day. Feel free to ask anything, including:
Do I need an HPV or other vaccines?
How can I protect myself from HIV and other STDs?
What are my birth control options?
How can I tell if my relationship is safe and healthy?
Should I be concerned about my alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use?
What can I do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Where can I get help for depression (or another mental health issue)?
Consider writing your questions down on paper or in your smartphone before the day of your appointment. Record the answers at your visit. And remember, you can still contact your provider after you leave if you feel confused or have new questions or concerns.