Are you neglecting your annual visit to your OB-GYN? Perhaps you think you only need to see an obstetrician/gynecologist if you’re sexually active or pregnant. But, that’s not true. An OB-GYN can provide a foundation for your long-term health.
Let’s go through some of the commonly held — but incorrect — myths about visiting your OB-GYN:
- I have to be 21 years old to see an OB-GYN. Girls can begin seeing an OB-GYN as early as age 13. Besides providing routine health screening, your doctor can answer questions or concerns you might have about your menstrual cycle, sexuality and safe relationships, sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy prevention.
- I don’t need to see my OB-GYN each year. Even if you’re healthy, and especially if you don’t have a primary care physician, seeing your OB-GYN each year provides health screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, STDs, STIs and cancer. The annual exam also offers a chance to review any current methods of birth control, update vaccinations and discuss any concerns about sex, your period or plans for becoming pregnant.
- I have to get a pap smear every year. General recommendations have changed on how often you need a pap exam to screen for cervical cancer. Current guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say women ages 21 to 29 should have a pap test every three years and women 30 to 65 should have a pap test every three to five years. After age 65, if you have no history of abnormal results and have had consecutive negative test results, you no longer need pap smears. If your immune system is compromised or if you’ve had abnormal results, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing. Although you may not need a pap exam every year, you should still have a pelvic exam annually. This examination looks at the cervix, vagina and vulva to detect any abnormalities.
- It’s fine to wait until I’m 40 to get pregnant. While you shouldn’t rush to become pregnant before you’re ready, the chances of conceiving decrease as you age. Healthy couples in their 20s to early 30s have a 25 percent to 35 percent chance of becoming pregnant each monthly cycle. But by age 40, that drops to less than a 10 percent chance each cycle.
- Being on birth control for a long time can decrease your fertility. Using birth control long term does not affect your fertility. However, it can take 10 to 12 months to get pregnant after stopping birth control as your cycle returns to a pre-hormonal schedule.
Your OB-GYN isn’t just for when you have concerns about birth control and pregnancy. OB-GYNs provide education, assessment and treatment for issues that span a lifetime.
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