By: Dr. Sheena Pullman
Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Services, Ochsner Health Center – Destrehan
In addition to celebrating our mothers each May, it is women’s health month – a time to raise awareness for healthcare issues facing women of all ages. As a woman, taking care of your body is very important and you should feel good physically and mentally. If you’re searching for wisdom about women’s wellness, or how to talk to your daughter or a young girl about womanhood, below are some questions and topics to discuss, in addition to some answers to help give you a head start.
When should you have your first gynecologic visit and what should you expect?
Girls should have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15. The first visit is usually just a talk between you and your doctor. Common topics discussed include your menstrual cycle, sexual activity and contraception. You usually do not need to have a pelvic exam at your first visit unless you are having problems such as abnormal bleeding or pain. If you are sexually active, sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing may be done.
What are a pelvic exam and a Pap smear test?
A pelvic exam and a pap smear are two different things! The pelvic exam has 3 parts: (1) Looking at the vulva, (2) looking at the vagina and cervix with a speculum and (3) checking the uterus and ovaries with a gloved hand. At age 21, a Pap smear will be performed. A Pap smear checks for abnormal changes in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. Your doctor will use a small brush to take a sample of cells from your cervix.
What topics should I discuss with my OB/GYN?
Feel free to discuss anything that’s on your mind. Do not be embarrassed. We often talk about cramps; problems with your menstrual cycle, acne, weight, depression, sex, sexuality, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as alcohol, drugs and smoking.
Do I need to have a pelvic exam to get birth control from my doctor?
A pelvic exam is generally not needed for most forms of birth control except for the intrauterine device (IUD) and diaphragm. However, if you are sexually active, your doctor will likely perform a pregnancy test and STD screening before prescribing birth control.
Are there benefits to taking birth control pills?
Yes. In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills help to shorten your menstrual cycle, reduce cramping and lighten the bleeding. Certain pills even help control acne.
When should I get my first mammogram?
We typically recommend women get the first screening mammogram around age 40 and recommend them yearly. However, the likelihood of developing breast cancer is higher if a close blood relative has been diagnosed with the disease, especially if they were diagnosed before the age of 50. If you believe you may be at a higher risk, ask your physician when you should start being examined and how often you need to have the mammogram done.
Dr. Sheena Pullman graduated from the Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in 2011. She specializes in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Dr. Pullman is affiliated with Ochsner Medical Center Jefferson Highway and Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner.Plantation View Medical Offices, 13100 River Rd., Destrehan, LA 70047) please visit www.ochsner.org/doctors/sheena-pullmanor call 504.464.8506.