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Guiding You from Puberty to Menopause

Your Relationship with Your Obstetrician and Gynecologist Through The Years
By Karen Johnson, MD, Nichole Butler-Mooyoung, MD, Vanessa Foster, MD

Your relationship with your OB/GYNE is an important one and many women continue their relationship with their physician throughout adulthood. Developing a relationship with an OB/GYNE that you are comfortable with can play a vital role in your long-term health.

Laying a Foundation

An OB/GYNE is a physician that specializes in the female reproductive system. From irregular menstrual cycles to preventive screenings, your OB/GYNE is a resource for information and emotional support.

Emotional Support

Puberty
Emotional and physical changes, such as experiencing strong emotions and weight gain, occur during puberty. Your OB/GYNE can help you understand the hormonal changes taking place and how they impact your body and mind. Knowing what to expect can empower you to understand your body and ask questions when needed.

Menstrual Cycle
As you continue through puberty, you will begin having a menstrual cycle, also known as a period. Everyone’s cycle is different. Your OB/GYNE can talk to you about cramping or discomfort, light, medium and heavy flows and how long you can expect it to last each month.

Education

Sexual Health
Many women have questions or uncertainty about sexual health. Your OB/GYNE can arm you with information on safe sexual practices, how to have open communication with your partner and more.

Birth Control
When it comes to birth control, you have options. If you are interested in starting birth control, your OB/GYNE can explain the different types available and help you decide which method is best for you.

Sexually Transmitted Infections
If you are sexually active, your OB/GYNE will talk to you about common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), safe sex practices and how to best protect yourself.

Preventive Care

Pap Smear
Pap smears, also known as pap testing, offer valuable insight into your vaginal health. Pap smears are often performed along with a pelvic exam to screen for cervical cancer, abnormalities in cells and pelvic issues.

Pelvic Exams
Most women begin getting an annual pelvic exam at the age of 21. During the exam, your OB/GYNE will examine your vulva, the opening of your vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Breast Exams
Following your pelvic exam, your physician will perform a manual breast exam. He or she will feel your breasts, underarms and chest for lumps or other abnormalities.

Family Planning

Preparing for pregnancy can be an exciting time for many. There are several steps you can take to improve your preconception health. Talk with your OB/GYNE if you are thinking about starting a family.

  • Make an Appointment with Your OB/GYNE
    During the visit, your physician will review your medical and family history, ask you about medications you take and discuss your diet and lifestyle habits. Reviewing your family history with your physician allows them to determine your baby’s potential risk for certain inherited disorders. This initial visit will allow your provider to begin to identify factors, if any, that could affect your journey towards parenthood.
  • Start Taking a Folic Acid Supplement
    Folic acid is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in neural tube development. Brain and spinal birth defects can occur in the early stages of pregnancy, often before most women know they are pregnant. Taking folic acid before becoming pregnant can help prevent the development of these conditions.
  • Focus on Healthy Lifestyle Choices
    There are many factors that can impact your potential to conceive. Incorporating healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining healthy sleeping habits and managing stress can improve your overall health and increase your chances of becoming pregnant.

The Menopause Years

As you age, your body begins producing less estrogen, which is the hormone that helps control your menstrual cycle. Perimenopause, also known as the menopause transition, is when your body begins to transition from its reproductive years to menopause.

The Menopause Transition: What to Expect

While women begin perimenopause at various ages, the transition typically begins around the age of 40, although you may begin to notice changes as early as your 30s. The length of perimenopause varies, however it lasts for an average of four years. You are considered to have officially reached menopause once 12 consecutive months have passed without a menstrual cycle.

Symptoms of the Menopause Transition 
Changes in your menstrual cycle is the most common sign that you are beginning your transition to menopause. Your cycle may become longer or shorter or you may skip a cycle altogether.

Some women may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while some may have severe symptoms. In addition to menstrual cycle changes, you may also experience vaginal dryness, hot flashes and/or have difficulty sleeping.  

When to Have a Conversation with Your Gynecologist

Talk with your OB/GYNE if you notice any changes in your menstrual cycle, as abnormal bleeding may be a sign of a serious condition. Talk with your OB/GYNE if you experience symptoms that concern you or interfere with your daily life. Your physician can discuss lifestyle modifications as well as hormonal and non-hormonal medications to provide relief.

Whether you are establishing your first relationship with an OB/GYNE, planning to start your family or beginning your transition to menopause, your physician is here to guide you through your life’s milestones. For more information on women’s health or to schedule a visit with an OB/GYNE, please call 1.888.MY.DMG.DR (1.888.693.6437) or schedule an appointment online.


Topics and Subtopics: Women's Health

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