Your annual well woman exam might include a pap smear, a clinical breast exam, a pelvic exam… or it might not. The recommendations for how frequently women receive these specific screenings have changed over time, but the recommendation that women still receive a well woman exam- annually has not.
Your annual exam these days is as much about prevention as it is about screening. If you’re due for an upcoming exam, you can make the most of your time, as well as your OB/GYN’s, by being active in your own care.
To partner with your doctor, you need to pay a little more attention to your own health to help you prepare for your exam, but the payoffs for you can be great. Here are a few tips to help before you head to your next exam:
1) Take some time to gather your questions or concerns, before you get to the exam. We all have questions we want answered about our health, but they usually pop up in our head about four months before our appointment. If that’s the case for you, try to make a list somewhere you can remember (like your phone) of questions or concerns you would like to talk with your doctor about, but might not remember the day of your appointment.
2) Keep a health journal. If you’re having complications such as abnormal periods, trouble conceiving, or unusual weight loss or gain, consider keeping a health journal to track your symptoms. When it comes to keeping track of menstruation and ovulation, there are even phone apps that are easy to use and hard to loose. Journaling your health can help your doctor get a good idea of how long your symptoms have been occurring and what you might be up against.
3) Write down any changes in your life over the past year. Again, it can be hard to recount the past year on the spot in a doctor’s exam. But your midwife or OB/GYN needs to know any changes in your life circumstances and health that have occurred over the past year. You also need to let them know if you’re taking any different medications, be they over the counter or prescription, as well as any herbal remedies you might take.
And if your family health history has had any changes, like a mother or sister who has been treated for breast cancer or other female reproductive cancers, you need to make sure to tell your doctor that as well.
When it comes to a well woman exam, often times the more you can give your doctor, the more you can receive in turn from their expertise and recommendations. Always make sure that you’re honest with your healthcare provider about your health habits, your menstrual cycle, and your sex life. Being up front and honest helps you receive the best care possible.
Of course, it takes a level of trust and comfort to be able to share so candidly with your healthcare provider. And that’s exactly the level of care that we aim to provide at All About Women. Contact our office and schedule your annual well woman exam at our Gainesville or Lake City office today.