Your annual well-woman visit is a preventative care and counseling visit to help keep you healthy.

At Elite Women’s Health, our experienced and award-winning team of physicians, nurse practitioners, and midwives work closely together to provide exceptional women’s healthcare throughout the lifespan.

An important component of delivering an “Elite” level of care is the annual well woman gynecology visit. A well-woman visit is an important way for women of all ages to stay healthy, detect health issues early, and prevent future ones from developing.

The annual well-woman exam is a routine preventative care and counseling visit. This yearly visit provides an excellent opportunity to talk with your gynecologist about strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle and minimize health risks.

When Should I Have My First Gynecology Visit?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls should have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15, and yearly thereafter. Starting annual ob/gyn visits early helps young women form a routine of annual visits, build rapport with their gynecologist, and establish a medical history for the future. Regardless of when you schedule your first gynecology visit, you may be wondering what will happen during your appointment.

For teens, your first appointment may just be a talk between you and your gynecology provider. You may have a lot of questions about your periods, birth control, and sex. And you may be nervous. This is totally normal! Your gynecologist will be able to provide you with accurate and confidential answers to your questions about sexuality, your changing body, and your periods. You may learn about pregnancy prevention, STDs, and tips on staying healthy.

Pelvic and breast exams typically begin at age 21 unless you are experiencing issues such as menstrual cycle problems, unusual or severe vaginal or pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding or vaginal discharge, or breast concerns such as swelling, tenderness, or lumps. If there are any concerns, your provider may do a physical exam before age 21.

After age 21, well-woman visits include a discussion and documentation of your health history, a full physical exam (checkup), and setting of health goals.

What Can I Expect During My Well-Woman Visit?

Just like any other doctor’s appointment you will complete forms that will ask about your health history, family medical history, medications, and other details about your health.

A discussion and review of your health habits and history is one of the most important components of your well-woman visit, so that is where your provider will typically start your visit.

The Family Health Portrait tool from the CDC can help you document, save, and share your family history with your medical providers.

Some of the topics your provider may ask about include:

  • Medical history and family health history
  • Mental health history, including depression
  • Sexual activity and sexual partners
  • Eating and physical activity habits
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Medications, vitamins, minerals and herbs
  • Home life and relationships

What Happens During The Physical Exam?

For your physical exam, your provider will examine your body which may include:

  • Measuring your height and weight
  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Taking your temperature
  • Performing a clinical breast exam to feel for lumps, skin changes or nipple discharge
  • A pelvic exam to check your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, recum, pelvis, and ovaries for any abnormalities

You may be wondering if your provider will perform a Pap test during your physical exam to look for abnormal cervical cells.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) no longer recommends annual Pap tests. Most women will have a Pap test every 3-5 years starting at age 21, depending on age and clinical history. There are exceptions to these guidelines which may result in more frequent screenings.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Your gynecologist plays a critical role in helping reduce the incidence of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer by identifying patients with elevated risk. Did you know that other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women?

Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

During your well-woman visit, your provider will perform a clinical breast exam to feel for lumps or other changes. At home, being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size. BRCA genetic testing is not recommended for most people, but you may want this test if you and your provider think you are at higher risk of having the mutation.

breast cancer awareness month

Health Goals And Follow-Up Care

Based on your individual needs, your provider will help you set health goals for the upcoming year. These goals may include making appointments or seeing specialists for additional screenings.

Take advantage of your time with your gynecologist during your well-woman visit to re-prioritize your health for the upcoming year. Be sure and get adequate physical activity, eat healthy, manage stress, watch your weight, and get enough sleep.

Get Your Well Woman Visit Every Year!

Of course, please ask your Elite Women’s Health provider if you have any questions or concerns about your health. With offices in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Elite Women’s Health is here to care for you through all of life’s stages. Schedule your annual well-woman visit today!

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