Since this pandemic started, we’ve all been staying away from doctors and hospitals if we can, giving these overworked professionals the time and space to treat Covid patients and more serious medical cases. But there is a downside to our thoughtfulness, and that is that other health issues of ours could go unnoticed, leading to more serious outcomes and an added strain on our medical systems.
If a visit to the gynaecologist (gynae) is one of those appointments you’ve been putting off scheduling, here’s why to reconsider:
- You need a baseline
What do we mean by this? Seeing a health practitioner regularly means that any changes to your physical health can be picked up earlier, even if these are slight changes. This could include changes to your monthly period, i.e if it’s become heavier than usual or is accompanied by painful cramps. These changes can indicate other issues such as menstrual disorders or perimenopause, and the sooner you can get these addressed, the better. Annual check-ups help your gynae manage your health better, rather than only going to see them when you think something is wrong.
- Pap smears
A regular pelvic exam is an essential part of maintaining your health as a woman. Along with the physical examination, a sample of cervical cells are taken and then sent to a laboratory where they are checked for any abnormalities, which could indicate the possibility of cervical cancer. Early detection is key here, and this even more important to do if you have a history of cervical cancer in the family, are HIV positive or have a weakened immune system. Some medical aids like Fedhealth pay for a pap smear every three years for all women age 21-65 as part of their benefits, so be sure to check what your medical aid covers when it comes to this.
- Breast exam
You should be examining your own breasts for lumps or changes every month or two, but what if you’re not quite sure what to look out for, or how to do it? You could also have breasts which are by their nature ‘lumpy’, which can make checking them that much more challenging when doing it by yourself. You gynae can do a thorough breast exam, and if he or she have concerns they can send you for a mammogram or ultrasound for more detailed checks.
- Sexual health and birth control
Whether you’re a teenager needing your first form of birth control, or a woman wanting to discuss a future pregnancy – your gynae will be able to advise the best form of birth control for you. They are also a very good person to speak to about your sexual health, addressing problems like painful intercourse or other things that you may feel embarrassed talking about with anyone else.
Regular check-ups at the gynae are an essential part of maintaining your wellbeing as a woman. Get into the habit of seeing yours annually, and if you’ve been putting off making an appointment this year – get your phone out and do it now.