Annual Exams & Pap Smears
Why go to the gynecologist?
A gynecologist is a doctor or provider that focuses on women’s health and diseases of the reproductive system. Additionally, Obstetricians work with pregnant women to ensure a health pregnancy and save delivery. Most NorthShore Health Center OB/GYN doctors and midwives are one in the same and are able to guide female patients through all stages of women’s health. An annual women’s wellness exam provides a perfect opportunity for our OB/GYNs to counsel patients on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and minimizing health risks. As a woman, you know women’s bodies are complex. An annual visit with your OB/GYN provides the opportunity to contribute to your overall health and well-being throughout your lifespan by providing recommended preventive services and counseling.
What can I expect at my annual gynecological exam?
Overall, a routine annual exam at NorthShore Health Centers should include a screening, exam and counseling and any required vaccinations based on age and risk factors. During the exam one of our OB/GYNs will perform both a pelvic and breast exam. A pap smear or pap test may be done as well. The pap test is a screening used to test women for cervical cancers. The OB/GYN will use an extended swab to collect cells from your cervix in order to test for abnormalities. If normal, not all annual exams will require a pap smear. According to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, women should begin receiving a pap smear every three years starting at age 21.
The range of services or testing may also vary based on individual diagnosis, medical history, observation and treatment. Compiling a complete and detailed medical history is one of the most important aspects of a women’s health exam. At times, components of the physical exam may not be required, but your OB/GYN can play a crucial role in helping you make life-altering decisions regarding preventative health practices and healthy behaviors.
When is the right age to start seeing an OB/GYN?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, teenage girls ages 13–15 years old should have their initial visit with an OB/GYN. This first visit is more for educational purposes and allows the OB/GYN to inform the teen and accompanying parent or guardian on frequent age-related health issues. Since middle school is a time when some teenagers may start showing interest in romantic or sexual relationships, it is an ideal time for the OB/GYN along with other health care providers, parents, and guardians to build trust with the teen and offer support and guidance through this time in their lives. While teenage girls should become comfortable with an annual exam, it is especially important to see an OB/GYN provider if she is sexually active or planning to be or if she is having problems with her period.