What Is a Well-Woman Visit?
A Well-Woman Visit, sometimes called a wellness visit or well woman exam, are annual health examinations promoting long-term health and wellness. These visits establish a collaborative relationship between you and your physician, through which your physical and reproductive needs are assessed and addressed. The annual evaluation of your overall health can pave the way for positive action related to nutrition, family planning, exercise, and other factors that affect your quality of life.
What Happens During a Well-Woman Visit?
The objective of a well-woman visit is to screen, evaluate, and counsel the individual patient based on her unique circumstances, including age and genetic or lifestyle risk factors. The screenings and counseling that occur during a well-woman visit are often broken down into a guideline based on age.
13 to 18 years of age. We leave most women prior to 18 to their pediatricians in the community. Visits for cycle regulation under this age (usually the use of birth control pills), and for birth control consultations are common. However, more often exams are performed by the patient’s pediatrician.
19 to 39 years of age. Family planning is often the center of well-woman visits for this age group. Additionally, breast exams and cervical screenings will be scheduled at appropriate intervals based on your personal risk factors. Additional labs and screenings are ordered as needed.
40 to 64 years of age. Along with general health data, the well-woman checkup will assess the abdomen, thyroid, breasts, and cervix at the recommended intervals. During this time in life, women in peri-menopause can benefit greatly from collaboration with their gynecologist, who can evaluate and make recommendations regarding bone density and other health concerns.
65 and older. Menopause does not end the need for annual well-woman visits. At this time, we have a full picture of health history, which enables us to customize healthcare to the individual. Assessments may include diabetes testing, bone density testing, and colorectal screening.
As women age, they face unique health challenges. Well-woman visits provide the opportunity for preventive care, and for the early detection of potentially serious conditions, such as breast cancer.
At What Age Should You Have a Well-Woman Visit?
Each woman and each body are different, therefore this is no exact age that well-woman visits “should” begin. Please contact the office for consultations regarding cycle regulation and/or contraception under the age of 18.
Preparing for a Well Woman Visit
There are no hard and fast guidelines on what to do before each well-woman visit, but there are a few steps you can take to maximize your time with your health care provider.
- Write down any questions you have, and don’t be shy. We can discuss sexual health, fertility, depression, STDs, and much more.
- Write down any medications you are taking.
- Write down any symptoms you are experiencing, if any. This can include general fatigue, changes to your period, breast tenderness, etc.
What to Expect During a Well-Woman Visit
During your visit, we will ask questions about your relationships and work life. Depression is a common condition that affects many women, though there is relatively little discussion of mental health in most women’s lives. Annual visits are an excellent time to understand and help our patients be aware of their own risk factors for depression. There are several reasons a woman may become depressed. Knowing that she is not alone, and that treatment can help, can save her life.
What Should I Do If My Periods Change?
If your periods have changed, you should not wait until your next annual exam. Schedule a visit with us if you:
- Bleed for longer than 7 days.
- Do not have a period for 3 months and are not pregnant.
- Experience erratic periods after years of regularity.
- Experience heavy bleeding (soaking one pad every 1 to 2 hours).
- Bleed in between periods.
- Start your period less than 21 days after your last, or more than 35 days after your last period.
- Suffer intense pain during menses.
- Become sick or develop a fever after using a tampon.