Posts for category: Women's Health
Have you been screened for STI's, or Sexually Transmitted Infections? Surprisingly, most Americans do not prioritize this important health testing. Plus, many health care providers do not routinely offer testing for STI's of any kind; so, patients must ask them about it, says the American Sexual Health Association.
How often should you be screened for STIs?
The short answer is that everyone from ages 13 to 65 should receive a baseline screening for HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, states the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). STIs, including HIV, often show no symptoms but can cause serious health issues over time. Also, says the CDC, routine testing, treatment, and follow-up limits transmission of disease from sexual partner to partner. So, all adults should ask their doctors for testing once a year. In fact, they should insist upon it.
Who is at risk for an STI?
Potentially anyone is at risk. However, some populations definitely are more prone to infection. They include:
- Male homosexuals
- People who have several sexual partners
- Women under the age of 25
- Sex workers
- Individuals who have unprotected sex
Transmission of STIs is easier than most people realize. Oral, anal, or vaginal sex can spread the microbes or insect vectors responsible for these often dangerous and hard to treat diseases. While many people believe they cannot ever have a Sexually Transmitted Infection, WebMD says the vast majority of Americans actually have had an active form some kind of STI.
What do tests look for?
Screening tests look for:
- HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus
- HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, which is linked to oral and cervical cancer
- Hepatitis B and C, caused by viruses
- Trichomoniasis, a parasite infection
Tests are simple, utilizing a urine sample, blood draw, or swab of oral or genital tissues.
Don't ignore the obvious or not so obvious
STIs can impact your health and interpersonal relationships. So, be sure you know where you stand. Women, talk to your OB/GYN about testing, and men, do the same with your primary care physician. It's what you do not know that can truly harm you and your loved ones.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV. There are many strains of this infection, some of which can cause cancer. This is why it’s important that you visit your gynecologist once a year for annual checkups and screenings.
Symptoms of HPV
Unfortunately, men and women can have HPV and never know, since symptoms aren’t common with this STD. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of bumps that can be found on the vulva or cervix of a woman and may develop on the penis or scrotum of a man. Once infected, genital warts can appear as early as 3 months after exposure; however, it can sometimes take longer.
Since high-risk HPV (HPV that causes cervical cancer) doesn’t often cause symptoms this means that the best action you can take to protect your health is to visit your gynecologist once a year for an annual exam. During this exam, your OBGYN can perform a physical examination, as well as a PAP smear and HPV test to check for changes in cervical cells that could be a warning sign of cancer or pre-cancer.
While there is no test to determine if you have HPV or not, there are tests available that can check for cervical cancer that is most likely caused by HPV. These screenings usually begin around the age of 30. Of course, if you develop vaginal bumps, sores or other changes it’s important that you see your doctor right away.
During a Pap smear, your gynecologist will scrape cells from the cervix and send them to a lab, where they will look for any cellular changes. A Pap smear only takes a couple of minutes to perform and those who’ve never had abnormal results may only need to get a Pap smear every three years. Those who have had positive results in the past may need to get tested more regularly.
Luckily, there is now a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV, particularly the strains that are the greatest risk for developing cervical cancer. Before recently, the vaccine had only been approved for people ages 9 to 25 but now the FDA has approved the vaccine for adults ages 27 to 45. These vaccines only work on patients who’ve never had HPV before; this is why it’s important to vaccinate teens early on to protect against certain strains of high-risk HPV.
Is it time for your annual women’s appointment? If you are interested in getting tested for HPV, you can easily schedule an HPV screening to be performed during your next checkup.
At some point all women will need to receive routine pelvic exams in order to check their vaginal and reproductive health. This exam allows your gynecologist to be able to examine the vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus to look for early warning signs of infection or other problems.
Unless otherwise recommended by a physician, most women will undergo their first pelvic exam at the age of 21. After which, this simple exam should become a regular part of your well-woman care.
Getting a Pelvic Exam
We know that any kind of new exam or procedure can make anyone a little nervous. That’s why we want you to know what to expect before coming into the office for your first pelvic exam. Here’s what to expect:
We will provide you with a dressing gown, which you will change into in private. From there, you will lie down on the exam table and place your feet into elevated footrests. You will move your body towards the end of the table and our gynecologist will instruct you on what to do to make sure they can perform the exam. Relaxing as much as possible during the exam is important as it will make the process more comfortable for you.
There are usually three different parts involved in a pelvic exam:
- The external exam: This allows us to look at the external tissue of the vulva to detect any irritation, abnormal discharge or warning signs of other problems like genital warts or cysts.
- The internal exam: A special instrument known as a speculum will be carefully inserted into the vagina to open up the walls so that your gynecologist can examine the uterus and cervix. Sometimes a small brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix for testing. This is known as a Pap smear and it allows your doctor to check for precancerous and cancerous cervical cells.
- The bimanual exam: The speculum is removed and your gynecologist will then place one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and press on the abdomen to check the size and shape of the uterus and to feel for any enlargements, tenderness, or pain.
While the first pelvic exam may feel a bit awkward and weird it should never feel painful or uncomfortable. If you are experiencing any discomfort please let us know. We will talk you through the entire process so you know what’s going to happen before it does. If you have any questions or concerns for us this is also the time to let us know.
How often should I get a pelvic exam?
This will depend on several factors. Based on your current health, medical history and any past medical test results we will determine whether you will only need to come in once a year or whether you could benefit from visiting us more often.
What is an IUD?
An IUD (intra uterine device) is a temporary form of birth control for women. It is a small, plastic device that is implanted into the uterus by an OBGYN to prevent pregnancy.
How Does an IUD Work?
There are two different forms of the device - hormonal and copper. The device prevents pregnancy in several ways. The copper version prevents fertilization by targeting and killing the sperm. The hormonal version releases daily low levels of levonorgestrel, thickens the mucus produced by the cervix during ovulation and thins out the uterine lining, all of which prevent the sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Do IUDs Provide STD/STI Protection?
No. IUDs only offer protection from pregnancy, and will not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Discuss sexual activity and risk factors with your OBGYN to determine the best methods for protection and safe sex with an IUD.
Who is a Good Candidate for an Intra Uterine Device?
IUDs are safe and effective for both younger women in their teens and older women, and can be used whether or not a woman has already given birth.
Will an IUD Affect the Ability to Get Pregnant in the Future?
No. The device does not affect fertility, and the woman's ability to conceive will be the same as before the device was implanted once it is removed, according to the woman's age and individual fertility levels. Once a woman is ready to become pregnant, an OBGYN can help to establish a fertility chart to determine ovulation and the best time to conceive.
Is the Device Painful?
Some women, particularly those who have never had children, may experience some initial discomfort when it is first implanted. Over the counter pain killers like Advil or Motrin prior to insertion of the device can help to minimize any pain or discomfort during and immediately following implantation.
If your OBGYN has recommended that you get a sonohysterogram done find out more about this procedure and what to expect.
Are you dealing with abnormal between-cycle bleeding, infertility or repeated miscarriages? While ultrasounds are often the first diagnostic test performed, if an ultrasound has come back normal and you’re still experiencing symptoms, then a gynecologist may recommend getting a sonohysterogram.
What can a sonohysterogram detect?
This procedure still uses an ultrasound to examine the inside of the uterus, but instead of just an ultrasound a saline solution is administered in the uterus beforehand. By injecting this solution inside the uterus we can obtain more details of the uterus that you wouldn’t be able to see with a regular ultrasound alone. A sonohysterogram can often be performed right in your gynecologist’s office and it usually takes about 15 minutes to complete.
When will a sonohysterogram be performed?
For obvious reasons this procedure will be performed when you don’t have your menstrual cycle, since bleeding could make it more difficult to see the uterus. This test isn’t performed on women who are pregnant or could be pregnant, as well as women with pelvic infections.
What should I expect from my procedure?
During the first portion of your treatment we will perform a regular transvaginal ultrasound. Then the solution will be injected into the uterus, and the ultrasound will be performed again.
After your procedure it is normal to experience some slight cramping and spotting, but most women are able to return to their normal activities the very same day as their procedure. But if you are having any symptoms that are concerning, you need to call your OBGYN.
If you are dealing with unusual uterine bleeding or having fertility issues, it’s certainly time to talk to a OBGYN specialist who can help provide you with the answers you need.