A lot of people assume that only pregnant women or those with reproductive health issues should see an OBGYN. But this is a common misconception that could keep a woman from seeking the care her body needs.
Here’s the truth about how early women should start seeing, how frequent they should visit, and when they can stop routinely going to an OBGYN.
First OBGYN visit
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a girl should start seeing a gynecologist when she is around 13 to 15 years old.
It is also recommended that women start regularly visiting a gynecologist when they become sexually active, or within two years of becoming sexually active.
Other reasons to start seeing an OBGYN include abnormal vaginal discharge accompanied by stomach pain and fever, menstrual period being delayed for over three months, not having the first period by age 15 or within three years since the breasts started growing, irregular periods, and other menstrual problems, such as excessive pain, heavy bleeding, and prolonged periods. Ideally, a woman should have had their first OBGYN visit by the time she turns 21.
Whether or not they as sexually active, seeing a gynecologist once a year is enough for most women. This can be more frequent if she is pregnant or is trying to conceive. While most women usually go to their OBGYN for their reproductive health, OBGYN practitioners can also be a woman’s primary care provider.
Regular OBGYN examinations may include measuring standard vital signs and body mass index, and palpitating the abdomen and inguinal lymph nodes. Depending on the patient’s age and risk factors, she may also undergo a pelvic examination, ultrasound scanning, endometrial biopsy, mammography, colonoscopy, and immunizations. For screening tests, a patient may also be required to give a blood or urine sample.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force also recommends that women aged between 21 to 65 years old have a pap smear test every three years, or a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. Starting at age 30, she should have a combination of pap and HPV tests every five years, as well.
If she has had at least two negative pap or HPV tests within the last 10 years, a woman over 65 years old may stop getting routine screening and visiting her OBGYN altogether. However, women with a history of advanced pre-cancer diagnosis should still continue to be screened regularly for at least 20 more years.
Women of any age who have undergone hysterectomy with removal of the cervix, have no history of cervical cancer or precancerous abnormalities can also choose to stop having regular screening tests.
Even after menopause, it is still a good idea for women to regularly see their OBGYN to monitor the health of their reproductive organs. But if a woman over 70 has a history of normal pap smears, is not sexually active, and has no new sexual partners, she can stop routine visits altogether.
Regardless of age and sexual activity, women should be mindful of their reproductive health. Finding an OBGYN she can trust and seeing them regularly or when her circumstances require is important to every woman’s health and well-being.