Because obstetrics and gynecology is an intimate specialty, it’s important to find a health care provider that you feel comfortable talking to. Once you’ve done that, come prepared with any questions you have as well as anything you’re experiencing that is not normal for you. It is important to be open and honest as you answer questions so that your gynecologist can provide the best care for you. Here are some things to think about before you visit your OB-GYN:
1. Has your personal or family medical history changed? What health habits – good and bad – do you have?
- Have you had any surgeries, illnesses, diagnoses or allergies since your last appointment?
- Have any of your relatives been diagnosed with new diseases?
- Do you smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs?
- How often and what kinds of exercise do you do?
- What medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies are you currently taking?
- Have you made any recent changes to your diet?
Knowing your medical history and the medical history of close relatives can help your gynecologist know whether you need certain preventative screenings and how frequently you might need them.
Diet and exercise – as well as the other habits listed above – play a big role in a woman’s overall health. While some habits may increase your risk for certain conditions, healthy lifestyle choices can help lower your risk for many others. In addition, it’s important for your health care provider to know your habits to avoid prescribing any medications or therapies that could negatively interact with existing ones.
2. Tell us about your sexual history – all of it.
- Are you, or have you ever been, sexually active? If so, are you using birth control and STD protection?
- Do you have sexual activity with men, women or both?
- How many sexual partners have you had and how many do you have currently?
- Have you had unprotected sex?
While these details are intimate, it is important to let your gynecologist know so he or she can care for you appropriately. The number of sexual partners you have or if you’ve had unprotected sex will help determine whether any STD/STI screening needs to be performed. Some STDs/STIs do not have noticeable symptoms. It’s always better to catch any infections early so they can be treated and you can prevent spreading them to others.
3. Share the ups and downs of your menstrual cycle.
- When was your last period?
- How often do you have menstrual cycles?
- Have you noticed any changes in your menstrual cycles?
Be sure to notify your gynecologist of any changes or problems in your menstrual cycles. Have your periods been heavier or lighter, or shorter or longer than normal? Have you experienced any spotting, cramping, discharge or pain? Notifying your health care provider of changes in your menstrual cycle will help him or her identify if there’s a bigger issue going on.
4. Are you trying to get pregnant? Are you trying not to get pregnant?
- Are you experiencing any side effects from birth control?
- Do you think you could be pregnant?
- Are you planning on getting pregnant within the next year?
Your pregnancy history as well as any plans you have for becoming pregnant are important to discuss with your gynecologist. There are certain things to consider if you’re thinking about having a baby. Preconception care can improve your chances of getting pregnant and of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Since some habits are harder to break and some health issues take longer to address, preconception care ideally begins at least three months before you get pregnant.
5. Don’t be embarrassed to bring up anything and everything that’s happening ‘down there.’
- Are you leaking urine or stool? Or do you find yourself running to the restroom all the time?
- Are you experiencing discharge, odor, itching or vaginal skin changes?
- Is sex painful for you? Or, have you lost any and all interest in sex?
While you may consider your gynecologic and sexual health an embarrassing subject to breach with close friends, let alone your health care provider, remember that it’s something we talk about daily. To us, it’s science and the symptoms you may be experiencing can be a telling sign of your overall health. While there are some things women do have to “put up” with, there are many others that can be treated. Even though your symptoms may be embarrassing for you, chances are, you’re one of many suffering in silence.
Now that you’ve taken some time to prepare for you appointment, all you need to do is schedule it. We look forward to seeing you soon and helping you LIVE HEALTHY throughout each age and stage of your life.