Why Are Gynecological Examinations Important for Good Female Reproductive Health?

Evelyn Rodriguez
OB/GYN - APRN
September 2, 2023

An annual gynecological exam is important to receive preventive health screening. However, many women tend to put these exams off due to their busy schedules. This is often due to women not having enough time; it's easy to overlook the importance of a simple checkup. From family history to pelvic exams and pap smear to annual exams, we're going to discuss why gynecological examinations are important for good female reproductive health and what type of exams women need for each stage of their life.

Every woman is different at every stage of her life!

Before we dive into the importance of an annual gynecology exam on women's health, it's significant to note that the needs of a woman will not stay the same all her life. As women age, changes in their bodies require changes to the type of care they receive.

That's why obstetricians and gynecologists are here to help. An obstetrician provides care during pregnancy and after giving birth, while a gynecologist cares for overall female reproductive health. In other words, their goal is to provide women with proper gynecological health care fit for different stages of their lives.

Importance of Gynecological Examination for Girls Ages 13 to 15

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls make their first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15. This is regardless of whether or not they have started menstruating or are sexually active.

Although puberty in girls often begins by age 8, it is during ages 13 to 15 that most of these changes fully manifest. Physiological changes in adolescent girls include hips widening, breast growth and tenderness, hair growth, and the start of menstrual periods.

It is also during this stage that teenage girls experience some emotional changes. For example, they start having a greater sense of self, mood changes, and sexual interest in other people.

Gynecological Exams for Girls Ages 13 to 15

An adolescent girl's first gynecologic visit doesn't necessarily include a pap smear or pelvic exam. Instead, their first visit might often involve going over medical history, general physical exam, and the following exams:

  • General Physical Check-up: Their weight, height, and body measurements will be taken.
  • Breast Exam: A thorough breast exam is not necessarily needed for teenage girls. However, the gynecologist might need to take a look at their breasts to determine if they are developing properly.
  • External Genital Exam: The gynecological doctor would also check the vulva (external genitalia) for issues such as swelling, genital warts, or vaginal discharge.

Pelvic exams are only done if the adolescent girl is experiencing problems such as painful or heavy periods. If they are sexually active, STD testing might be performed as well. The girls might also get an HPV vaccine if they haven't had one yet.

Common Gynecologic Health Problems Among Adolescent Girls

Compared to subsequent visits, the first gynecological visit is more of a conversation between the girl and the doctor. The gynecologist will ask them a lot of questions including about their menstrual period and whether or not they have engaged in any sexual activity. These questions are for the doctor to know how they can help the patient best.

Common health issues during this period include:

A gynecological exam is important to help adolescent girls understand how their body works and learn good health habits. This visit is also necessary to develop a relationship between the girl and her gynecologist so that she'll be more comfortable sharing personal information in the future. Additionally, a gynecologist can serve as an adult that girls can confide in, especially regarding sexual and reproductive health.

Importance of Gynecological Examination for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 21

After puberty, a woman's body continues to change. During your 20s you reach your maximum bone mass and muscle strength. This means that you're usually at your strongest in your 20s. Your periods are also often predictable.

When you get to your mid- or late 30s, another change happens. You start entering into perimenopause which is the transition into menopause. In this period, your bone and muscle mass starts to decline. Your skin starts losing its elasticity and develops wrinkles. You might also have irregular periods and your fertility also decreases. Additionally, you might start experiencing hot flashes which is a common sign of perimenopause.

Gynecological Exams Done for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 21

Compared to subsequent visits, the first gynecological visit is more of a conversation between the girl and the doctor. The gynecologist will ask them a lot of questions including about their menstrual period and whether or not they have engaged in any sexual activity. These questions are for the doctor to know how they can help the patient best.

  • Pap Smear: Women aged 21 to 65 are recommended to get a Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, every year. This is often done alongside an HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) test. Both tests are used to detect the earliest signs of cervical cancer.
  • Pelvic Exam: A pelvic exam usually consists of three parts. It starts with the doctor performing an external examination of the vulva, then an internal examination of the vagina and cervix using a speculum, and lastly they'll check the uterus and ovaries with a gloved hand.
  • STD Testing (Chlamydia and Gonorrhea): Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are sexually transmitted infections that, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. STD testing is important especially since Chlamydia and Gonorrhea have no symptoms during the early stages.
  • HIV Testing: The CDC recommends getting an HIV test at least once in your lifetime. For people with certain risk factors, such as having sex with someone who has HIV, HIV testing should be done on an annual basis.
  • Clinical Breast Exam: A clinical breast exam is done to detect abnormalities and signs that can lead to breast cancer.
  • Diabetes Testing and Lipid Panel Cholesterol Test: A blood sample will be taken to test if your blood sugar and cholesterol are within normal levels. Diabetes testing is especially important during pregnancy to determine if you have gestational diabetes. These tests are often done every 5 years.

If you're pregnant, there might be additional tests that you need to have done including urinalysis and screening for birth defects. If you don't want to get pregnant or you're not ready yet, ask your ob-gyn doctor for birth control methods that'll suit you.

Common Gynecologic Health Problems for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 21

During your annual visit, you'll be encouraged by your obstetrician-gynecologist to discuss any concerns you might have. Your concerns need not be limited to just reproductive and sexual health but can include women's health in general. Here are some of the common gynecological problems that women aged 21 and above might have:

  • Female Sexual Dysfunction or Painful Sex
  • Cervical Cancer
  • HIV
  • STIs
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Amenorrhea (Absence of period)
  • Endometriosis
  • Vaginitis

Sometimes, women feel embarrassed talking about personal details during a gynecological exam. But discussing these health issues, and being honest about them will allow your doctor to provide you with the proper care you need. Rest assured that anything you say will be kept confidential.

Importance of Gynecological Examination for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 40

Women over the age of 40 might start having missed periods. Although this could be a sign of pregnancy, it might also mean that you're going into menopause early. So it's always best to check in with your doctor just to be sure.

As you reach your late 40s, you'll start entering the perimenopausal phase. Your estrogen and progesterone production slows down and you might start experiencing an erratic menstrual cycle. Other changes include vaginal dryness, hair loss, mood swings, and urinary problems. During this phase, getting pregnant might be more difficult but not impossible.

Once you enter your 50s, you may be in your menopause stage. This time your ovaries will no longer release eggs and you won't get pregnant anymore. Common menopause symptoms include hot flashes, sleeping difficulties, irritability, brain fog, and vaginal dryness.

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Gynecological Exams Done for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 40

An annual gynecology exam is just as important in your 40s as it was in your 20s. You'll still need routine examinations such as a breast and pelvic exam, Pap test for cervical cancer screening, and Diabetes and Cholesterol screening.

  • Mammography: A mammogram is a diagnostic imaging test used to determine abnormalities in the breast that could lead to breast cancer. This test is recommended for women ages 40 and above because it is less sensitive in younger women. By the age of 50, all women are advised to get a mammogram test every one to two years.

Common Gynecologic Health Problems for Sexually Active Women Over the Age of 40

As long as you're sexually active with multiple partners, there's still a risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases. But during this period, additional health issues might come up due to entering the perimenopausal and menopausal stages. Here are some of the gynecologic health concerns that you might face in your 40s:

  • Unintended Pregnancy
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Increased Risk for Cancers
  • Changes in Bone Density
  • Weight Gain

If you haven't entered your menopausal phase, there's still a possibility that you'll get pregnant. If this is something that you don't want to happen, then there are birth control methods that can help you.

The changes that occur in your 40s and 50s can be overwhelming for some women. Especially since it involves changes in your physical appearance and thus may affect your confidence. Your gynecological doctor not only helps provide preventive care, but they can also help you ease into the perimenopausal and menopausal phases. Additionally, they can also advise you on treatments that may improve your weight and help with skin and hair problems which are also common during this stage.

Importance of Gynecological Examination for Women Over the Age of 60

When you get to your 60s, you might already be done experiencing menopause symptoms. However, some women might still encounter hot flashes that can be quite bothersome.

During this stage, your skin might also become drier and itchier. Also, your bones and muscles might start becoming weaker as you age. You can still be sexually active but due to vaginal dryness becoming more noticeable, you might need to use lubricants.

Gynecological Exams Done for Women Over the Age of 60

In your 60s, you might still need a pelvic and breast exam, mammogram test, and a Pap smear and HPV test.
When you reach 65 and you have had at least three negative HPV and Pap smear tests in a row, your doctor might recommend you stop taking these tests. Instead, these tests might be replaced by the following:

  • Bone Density Testing: As you grow older, your bones tend to wear down and you might have risk factors for a bone fracture. A bone density test is necessary will help detect early signs of osteoporosis and prevent it from worsening.

Common Gynecologic Health Problems for Women Over the Age of 60

Women aged 60 and above are more prone to health problems due to a weakened immune system. They might also experience gynecological problems which can include:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Pelvic Floor Prolapse
  • Vulvovaginitis (Inflammation of both the vulva and vagina)
  • Sexual Dysfunction

For older women, an annual gynecological exam is not only meant to catch health problems early on. It is also important to help women overcome the common symptoms of aging.

Schedule A Gynecological Visit Today!

At All-Inclusive Preventive Care, working with our ob-gyn means having a healthcare professional focus on maintaining your health and addressing issues that may affect you at different stages of your life. During your annual exam visits, you can ensure you will be tested appropriately and you will also have the opportunity to inquire about topics you might not be able to speak about with anyone else.

Schedule a gynecological exam with us today. Call us at (305) 200-3141 and let's start your journey towards lifelong health.

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