Ladies, let’s talk. Your annual exam doesn’t have to make you uncomfortable. Learn the questions you should be asking your provider, as well as when to schedule an appointment.
It’s natural to feel a little nervous during your annual exam. However, asking the right questions and finding a provider you trust can help reduce your uneasiness.
Millions of women experience the same health concerns as you do, and though some may be embarrassing, it may be helpful to remember that many women feel this way every day. Your provider and care team are here to help you answer all your questions pertinent to your medical care and schedule your appointments needed for your overall health and well-being.
6 Common Concerns—What’s Normal and When to Seek Care
Below are six concerns you may feel embarrassed to talk about with your provider, as well as advice on when to seek help.
1.Vaginal discharge will vary in consistency and color depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, but some discharge is healthy and normal. However, if you also experience itching, burning, irritation or a foul odor, call your provider’s office to schedule an appointment, as it may be a sign of an infection.
2. Incontinence is experienced by millions of women and characterized by involuntary loss of urine. This can happen when the pelvic floor muscles weaken, making it hard to control the need to use the restroom. Ask your provider if Kegel exercises can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles or if medication may be necessary. You may also benefit from a specialized form of physical therapy focused on women’s health to strengthen your muscles.
3. Vaginitis, or inflammation or infection of the vagina, causes symptoms such as dryness, itching and foul odor. Vaginitis is common and can be avoided by maintaining good hygiene, but it may also be a condition called lichen sclerosus. This condition can prompt irritation and itching, and it may be precancerous. If you’re concerned, schedule an appointment with your provider.
4. Loss of libido is a decrease in sex drive that can be caused by many factors, including hormone fluctuations, lifestyle changes, anxiety or an underlying medical issue, such as thyroid problems or heart disease. Be open with your provider about your concerns with intimacy—it may be a sign something else is wrong.
5. Pain during intercourse is an issue that is usually caused by a lack of vaginal lubrication. However, it is always important to follow-up with your provider regarding this concern as it may also be a sign of ovarian cysts, endometriosis or ovarian cancer. If you experience pain during or after intercourse, as well as other symptoms such as pelvic pain or digestive problems, schedule an appointment with your provider.
6. Signs of menopause begin at age 51 on average. If you start to notice signs of menopause, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood swings, talk with your provider about methods to manage them. At this age, women should continue their annual mammograms, pelvic exams and Pap smears according to your medical history and recommendations by provider.
To request your appointment, visit altru.org/mychart.