Annual Well-Woman Exam
An annual well-woman exam is part of your overall health maintenance. This exam is important throughout all phases of a woman’s life. The focus of your exam changes as you mature. A well-woman exam can be divided into four components: a discussion of your health history with your physician; a general physical exam, including your weight and blood pressure; a breast exam, to check for lumps or fibrocystic changes; and a pelvic exam, to check your abdomen, pelvis and vagina for any abnormalities. Your physician may perform a pap smear, depending on your age and your health history. It is important to ask questions if there is any information you don’t understand. Your physician may order lab work or additional testing, depending on your exam.
Your First Well-Woman Exam
A gynecologic visit focuses on your reproductive organs and your physical health. Your doctor will ask questions about your health and your family’s health. We know that your first gynecology visit can be intimidating and we want you to be as comfortable as possible. We encourage you to ask questions if there is information that you do not understand. Your physician may ask questions about your health that may seem personal or private. It is very important to be open and honest with your physician. The information you provide will help your physician to keep you healthy and know how best to care your individual needs.
During your gynecological visit, you will have a general physical exam. We will check your weight, height, and blood pressure. We will also ask you questions about your health history and whether you have any special concerns. This visit may also include the following:
- Breast exam: Your physician will check your breasts for any abnormal symptoms, such as lumps or discharge.
- Pelvic exam: Your physician will examine your abdomen, pelvis, and vagina.
- Pap test: A Pap smear takes a sample of the cells of the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. This test is used to find abnormalities on the cervix that could lead to cancer. Your physician will discuss when it will be appropriate to have regular Pap tests.
Based on the results and findings of your first exam, your physician may make recommendations for any appropriate follow-up care.
We deliver our patients at Seton Medical Center on 38th Street. Our physicians would like to deliver all of their own patients and in most cases, they do. However, evening and weekend call is shared among the physicians so that one of the providers is available at all times for our patients. After-hours emergencies are handled by one of our physicians and our nurse on-call. You can expect consistent, uncompromised care from each of our physicians. Our goal is a healthy mother, a healthy baby, and making your delivery the kind of experience you want.
Women Partners In Health also offers comprehensive childbirth, baby care, breastfeeding and early pregnancy classes. For more information, please see our “Classes” section.
Abnormal Pap Results
The Pap test checks for changes in the cervix that may become cancer. In women who have regular Pap tests, abnormal changes are almost always caught early. If your Pap results are abnormal, your physician may recommend additional testing such as: a repeat pap smear, HPV testing, or a colposcopy. These tests help us determine whether your results are mildly abnormal or precancerous. Your physician will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment options and help you to develop a plan of care. It is important to follow treatment recommendations made by your physician, as our goal is to keep you as healthy as possible.
Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Abnormal bleeding is defined as bleeding between periods, excessive bleeding, bleeding after sex, spotting at any time during your cycle, or perimenopausal or postmenopausal bleeding. There are many different causes for abnormal bleeding. Before you can be treated, your physician has to determine the cause for your bleeding. In order to diagnose possible causes for bleeding, your physician will ask you questions about medication use, exercise and stress level, birth control use, and your personal health history. You will have a physical exam and possible lab work. Depending on your symptoms, your physician may order additional tests.
Most women experience cramping or mild pain with their menstrual periods. However, some women experience severe pelvic pain and other physical symptoms that interfere with their daily life. Dysmenorrhea is defined as moderate to severe pain that occurs with menstruation. It may occur prior to, during, and following menses. This condition can be treated with medications, hormones, or in some cases, surgery. Exercise and alternative treatments like relaxation techniques or massage can help to alleviate symptoms in some women. Your physician will go over your health history and your symptoms and help you develop a treatment plan.
Endometrial tissue, or the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus, can sometimes grow in other areas of the pelvis. This is called endometriosis. This tissue responds to normal hormonal changes and bleeds like the lining of the uterus. This can cause adhesions, chronic pelvic pain and or painful periods. Sometimes, endometriosis can be a cause of infertility. Symptoms of endometriosis can be chronic and may range from very mild to very severe. Treatment options range from medication to surgery or both. Your physician will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment options and help you to develop a plan of care.
Uterine fibroids, or leiomyoma, are growths associated with the uterine lining or muscle that can cause abnormal bleeding, painful periods, pelvic pain, or infertility. Fibroids can be detected by a pelvic exam or ultrasound. Some fibroids are small and do not require treatment. However, depending on the size, location, and number of fibroids in the uterus, medication and or surgery may become necessary. Your physician will recommend treatment options based on your symptoms and physical condition.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that affects both females and males. Most types of HPV are harmless, do not cause any symptoms, and go away on their own. About 30 types of HPV are known as genital HPV since they can affect the genital area. Some types are high risk and can cause cervical cancer or abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix that sometimes turn into cancer. Others are low risk and can cause genital warts and changes in the cervix that are benign (abnormal but noncancerous). A routine Pap test can help detect these changes. There is no cure for HPV, but you can take steps to reduce your risk by limiting your number of sexual partners and using condoms when you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Women younger than 26 years of age can be vaccinated against the strains that most commonly cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, or HSV. This infection is usually spread through sexual contact. HSV presents as sores, blisters, or ulcers on the vulva. Symptoms may range from mild to severe; in some cases, there may be no symptoms with an outbreak of the herpes virus. Patients may experience itching, pain, or localized discomfort with the appearance of the lesions. Symptoms may last a few days to several weeks, and may reoccur periodically. There is no cure for the herpes virus, but there are medications that can help control active outbreaks and provide relief of symptoms.
Ovarian cysts are common in women during their childbearing years. Most of the time, small ovarian cysts are harmless and resolve on their own. Some ovarian cysts may not resolve and may require treatment. Ovarian cysts are often found during a pelvic exam. Additional tests, such as an ultrasound exam, can help your physician determine the size and location of the cyst. Surgery may be required in some cases, if the cyst is very large or causing severe physical symptoms. Your physician will discuss available treatment options with you.
Some women experience severe, chronic pelvic pain that interferes with their daily life. Causes for pelvic pain include, but are not limited to: fibroids, endometriosis, ovulation pain, dysmenorrhea, scar tissue, infection, ovarian cysts, muscular or skeletal problems, urological problems, or gastrointestinal problems. In order to diagnose possible cause(s) for chronic pelvic pain, your physician will go over your health history, perform a physical exam, and may order lab tests. Once your doctor has evaluated your symptoms, she can recommend treatments or ways to help you manage your pain.
Pelvic Support Problems
The pelvic organs are held in place by supportive tissues and muscles. Pregnancy, childbirth and aging can cause these tissues and muscles to stretch or weaken, which can lead to pelvic support problems. The organs supported by the weakened tissue can sag out of place, which is also referred to as prolapse, and put pressure on the vagina or rectum. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe depending on the degree of prolapse. Your physician will do a thorough examination and recommend treatment options based on the severity of your symptoms.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder than can cause irregular periods, acne, difficulty becoming pregnant, obesity, or excess hair on the face and body, also known as hirsutism. In order to diagnose PCOS, your physician will do a thorough exam that may include lab work, an ultrasound exam, and a work-up of your personal health history. This is a chronic condition that can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as altering your diet, weight loss, and regular exercise and/or medication. Your physician will discuss different treatment options and help you to develop a long-term plan of care.
Mild urine leakage is common among women. In some women, urine leakage can interfere with their quality of life. When leakage is severe enough to be considered a problem, it is referred to as urinary incontinence. Many women do not discuss their symptoms out of embarrassment. There are different causes for incontinence. In order to determine what may be causing your symptoms, your physician will do a thorough physical exam, as well as discuss your personal health history. It is important to discuss your symptoms openly with your physician, as many treatment options are available.
Vulvodynia is chronic vulvar pain. The vulvar area includes the mons pubis, the labia, the clitoris, and the opening of the vagina. Symptoms of vulvodynia include, but are not limited to: pain, burning, stinging, aching, throbbing, and/or irritation. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. It’s important to have your doctor rule out treatable causes of vulvar pain, such as yeast or bacterial infections, skin conditions, or medical problems such as diabetes. Once your doctor has evaluated your symptoms, she can recommend treatments or ways to help you manage your pain.