Many of us only visit a doctor when we’re sick, but establishing a relationship with an OB/GYN is important for your overall health. A gynecologist is trained to care for women from adolescence through older age and understands a woman’s changing healthcare needs.
OB/GYN Kerry Sims, MD, says it’s recommended that women begin seeing a gynecologist before age 21 so they can get to know their doctor. “We want to establish a caring and trusting relationship with our patient,” she says.
Gynecologists counsel women on ways to stay healthy including diet, exercise, smoking cessation, mental health, and vaccinations. Starting early can go a long way toward helping women establish a healthy lifestyle at a young age.
Dr. Sims says this visit should be followed by yearly check-ups. “Annual gynecologic exams are among the most important ways for women to receive preventive health screening and education specific to their health needs.”
Many conditions that affect women’s health, including the human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer, can exist without any signs or symptoms. Regular screening with gynecologic exams and tests can detect these conditions at earlier stages when they can be treated most effectively.
During a yearly exam, your gynecologist can also address:
Painful or irregular periods
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Starting a family
When you are ready to start a family, your OB/GYN will help guide you along the journey to motherhood. There are many factors to consider for this stage of your life, including where your baby will be born.
Nine Prisma Health hospitals have received Baby-Friendly Hospital designation, which is an international designation for quality newborn care that promotes breastfeeding through rooming-in, encouragement of skin-to-skin contact and lactation support. Prisma Health is also one of the few healthcare systems in the state to offer maternal-fetal medicine specialists, genetic counseling and the highest level of neonatal intensive care for high-risk deliveries.
If you are struggling with infertility on your journey to motherhood, our OB/GYN providers can help you find the answers you are looking for. Infertility affects more than 15 percent of couples trying to get pregnant. It is defined as the inability to conceive within one year despite having unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility affects both men and women. Problems with sperm account for almost 40 percent of infertility. Problems affecting women include issues with ovulation, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes and endometriosis.
Patients often first receive fertility care from their OB/GYN, who may perform initial tests or start medical therapies. Providers may then refer patients to a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Midlife and beyond
About 25 to 50 percent of women journey naturally through menopause without serious complications. Unfortunately, for at least half of those experiencing menopause, the resulting hormonal changes bring on significant side effects. Some symptoms you can experience include severe hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes.
Other common issues that can happen at this stage of life include urinary incontinence (or leakage) and pelvic organ prolapse, which is a weakening in the pelvic floor muscles. Your gynecologist may advise nonsurgical or surgical therapy, depending on your condition and general health.
“If your symptoms get to be severe, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. As with every other stage in a woman’s life, we’re here to help you,” says Dr. Sims.
With a full range of women’s health services, Prisma Health can make it easier for you to stay well. Our doctors provide the essential preventive care you need, as well as treatment and surgical procedures for a wide range of women’s conditions. Find an OB/GYN partner for your life’s journey at PrismaHealth.org/Women.