For the Class of 2023, graduation events are mostly behind you, and the time until move-in day doesn’t seem like nearly enough for all your summer plans. Whether you are starting college or taking your first step into a career, a wellness exam might be on your summer to-do list.
Colleges and employers vary in whether they require a formal physical exam or other health-related assessments. Most require some health information, but regardless, this is a perfect time to take charge of your own health. Changes in your environment, diet, stress, sleep habits, and exposure to contagious illnesses in a dorm situation can impact your normal well-being and even your menstrual cycles. Your gynecologist understands that menstrual irregularities and painful periods can interfere with your academic or career success. Specialized gynecologic care offers the possibility of alleviating or managing these problems.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that young women first visit an Ob-Gyn between 13 and 15 years old. But whether or not you have previously seen a gynecologist, a women’s wellness exam is an important step as you begin your adult life. We’d like to offer some tips about how to prepare and what to expect.
Before your appointment, jot down a few notes about your personal history and family medical history. Your doctor will ask you about health problems of family members on both your mother’s and father’s side. Your father’s family history is relevant even for breast and gynecologic conditions. Bring your record of immunizations, your pharmacy phone number, and your health insurance card. Especially, think about any specific problems you are having or questions you would like to ask your doctor during the visit.
You may want to fill out your doctor’s “new patient” or “return visit” form before you arrive for your appointment. The form will help you to gather health information you may not have thought about. At Sparks & Favor, our forms are available on our website. Once you have gathered your personal health information, our Patient Portal can preserve this for you in a digital format. Updating your health history and sharing it with other providers becomes much easier.
What your exam includes will depend on your age, health problems, risk factors, and whether you are seeing another primary care provider. A woman should have her first cervical cancer screening (Pap test) at age 21. Your doctor will discuss with you the purpose and benefits of a pelvic exam and lab tests or other screenings she may recommend depending on your individual situation. She will also recommend immunizations if yours are not up to date (including those your university or workplace requires).
She will offer information about birth control options to help you make the best choice for your situation. Your gynecologist realizes that some women will experience a serious health concern in early adulthood. Eating disorders, anxiety and depression, substance use problems, sexual violence and consent, and exposure to sexually transmitted illnesses are all problems within her area of expertise. Beginning a long-term, trusting relationship with a doctor who specializes in women’s care will give you a reliable source of information and emotional support if you should confront any of these health issues.
We can help you develop a sense of what is normal for you and the ability to recognize changes that may signal the need medical attention. Above all, we hope that your early experiences with specialized women’s care will be beneficial and positive, and will help you to develop the habit of regular preventive care.
We congratulate you on the milestone of your graduation and wish you continued success!
Learn more from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “5 Ways Your Ob-Gyn Can Help You Stay Healthy”