Have you ever been to an obstetrician/gynecologist (Ob/Gyn) for a pelvic exam and Pap test? If your answer is “no” and you are 21 or older, pick up your phone today and make an appointment with your doctor or a family planning clinic in your area.
On the other hand, if your answer is “yes,” then how long has it been since your last Pap smear and pelvic exam? If you have not seen your gynecologist for a year or longer, it is time to make an appointment.
When Do Women Need Pelvic Exams?
Teenage girls should see an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 to 15. While pelvic exams are rarely required during this first visit, this visit helps to establish a relationship with the doctor of your choice and to go over your medical and sexual history (even if you have not had sexual intercourse.)
This is a good time to ask questions about sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that Pap smear testing begin within three years of sexual intercourse, or by age 21.
Even young women, who have not become sexually active, need to visit a gynecologist by age 21. The ACOG further recommends yearly Pap smears until age 30 when healthy women who have had at least three consecutive normal Pap smears may begin to have the test every two or three years, or as often as their gynecologists suggest.
You should always see your gynecologist if you experience: any unusual and persistent vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods or bleeding after intercourse. You also have to visit a Gynecologist if you have a swelling, or itching of you vagina or lower abdomen.
While a yearly Pap smear is not always necessary after age 30, all women still require an annual pelvic exam to check for any other changes or infections.
If you have had a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) (which causes cervical cancer) test that was negative, that does not mean you do not need to have a yearly pelvic exam.
Did you know that with each new sexual partner your risk of getting HPV increases by 15 percent? This means that having multiple sex partners raises your risk of HPV substantially.
According to the ACOG guidelines for Pap testing, women diagnosed with HIV or other diseases or conditions that lower immunity should continue having annual Pap smears after age 30.
The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear in five or more years. Sadly, these women are usually at an advanced stage of cancer when they receive diagnosis.
No, several circumstances may occur during the rest of the year. Consult your Ob/ Gyn whenever you experience abnormal signs and symptoms.
These signs and symptoms include: Pelvic pain or menstrual cramps severe enough to disrupt your daily routine for even a few days a month.
If abnormal bleeding occurs, you must change sanitary napkins, tampons, or other menstrual products more often than once every two to three hours.
Any of these symptoms can indicate a vaginal infection, or sexually transmitted disease (STD) which could affect your future fertility.
Of course, if you think you are pregnant, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
Also see your gynecologist more often if: you plan to get pregnant, you think you may have a sexually transmitted infection or have a partner who has sexually transmitted infection, have a history of sexually related illness, or have a mother or sister who developed breast cancer before menopause.
Consult your healthcare provider, if you notice any changes in your breasts such as puckering, dimpling, or other changes to the skin of your breasts; have newly retracted nipples, or discharge from your nipples, not associated with breast feeding.
If there is any change in your breast size or shape; or if you experience an increase in breast pain, discomfort or emotional issues before your period, you also need to visit a doctor.