So, you’re supposed to visit a gynecologist once a year, right? But, what exactly happens during that well-woman visit? Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from making that appointment.
Jennifer Muff, nurse practitioner at Banner – University Medicine Women’s Institute, shares 7 things you should know about well-woman visits.
1. It’s all about preventive health.
A well-woman visit is provided by your insurance for you to understand your own personal health risks and how to readily avoid them. This is done through screenings and education.
Sickness, injuries and follow-ups for current issues are not covered during a well-woman exam. It is usually best to schedule a separate appointment to address those issues.
2. A good relationship with your provider is vital.
Pick a provider who you can talk to easily. Your provider should meet you in the middle and show a genuine interest in your health—no judgments. Building trust into that relationship will increase the likelihood of a satisfactory visit (and be less awkward when you need a pelvic exam).
3. The contents of your well-woman visit are up to you and your provider.
As far as services go, your visit could include any of the following depending on your current health status:
- Contraceptive counseling
- Alcohol misuse screening
- Blood pressure screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Depression screening
- Nutrition and diet counseling
- HIV screening
- Vaccines and immunizations
- STI screening
- Having safe sex
- Period discussion (last menses, how long do they last, spotting in between menses and/or skipping menses)
- Pelvic exam
- Pap smear if needed (not every year)
- Breast exams
- Mammograms (age/risk appropriate)
4. Understand your insurance.
Most insurances provide preventive services, including well-woman visits. You will need to check with your specific plan to see how often these visits are covered, what is covered and any costs that may be associated with these visits. Some insurances, for example, may only pay for a mammogram every other year. It is important to know your specific plan.
5. It’s not always one-and-done.
While the well-woman visit is often talked about as a single, annual visit, it doesn’t always stop there. For example, if you’ve got a history of breast cancer in your family, your provider might decide that you should get a mammogram. The mammogram will likely be scheduled at a different time and place.
6. Don’t just get tests – ask questions.
What’s on your mind? Talk about your stress levels, your nutrition, your mood, your medications, your sex life, your family’s health history—next to nothing is off the table. Asking questions and raising concerns helps your health care provider know what’s important to you and what he or she should screen you for. Be honest—it is the best way to get the services you need. This is a good opportunity to ask questions about things that your friends may have told you—including when you can get pregnant, common side effects to birth control methods, how birth control methods work, etc.
7. Be prepared to answer some questions.
During your visit you are likely going to be asked to provide immunization records such as HPV shots, flu shots and boosters and your past medical/surgical history. You will also be asked a variety of questions, and it can be helpful to have an idea of what kinds of questions to expect ahead of time. Common questions include:
- When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?
- How long does it usually last?
- Is it heavy or light?
- Does it occur monthly or more sporadically?
- Family history
- Do you have a family history of cancer? If so, what type and at what age were they diagnosed?
- Do you have a family history of thyroid issues, diabetes, heart disease (hypertension, heart attack, irregular heart rhythms) or strokes?
- When was your last pap smear?
- When was your last mammogram?
- Have you had a colonoscopy? (if applicable)
- Have you had a bone density scan? (if applicable)
- What were the results?
- Birth control
- Are you currently taking birth control?
- What kind are you taking?
- Do you like it?
- Are you able to take it as prescribed or do you find yourself missing doses frequently?
- Reproductive life plan
- Do you want to have children?
- When do you want to have children?
- How do you want your children spaced?
- What medications are you taking?
- What are the dosages and how often are you taking them?
- Why are you taking them?
- Do you have any allergies?
- What is your reaction?
- Do you smoke or vape?
- How often?
- Do you want to quit?
- What have you done to quit smoking?
- What has helped you reduce smoking and what has not been helpful?
- What is your typical diet?
Now that you’re all prepared for your visit, make sure that you are scheduling regular appointments for yourself. For help finding a doctor, visit: doctors.bannerhealth.com.