After the onset of sexual activity, a woman should start visiting a gynecologist on a regular basis, but the regularity depends on the situation:
- Each time she changes her sexual partner;
- Once a year provided there are no complaints and she has a regular sexual partner;
- In case a woman has any complaints, it is recommended to see a gynecologist within the shortest possible time.
Many gynecological diseases can progress without any apparent clinical manifestations, a woman might even not notice any changes in her condition, whereas it won't be difficult for a gynecologists to detect them. For example, small uterine fibroid can be asymptomatic for a long period of time, or a woman might not give due attention to its symptoms like increase in the time of menstrual bleedings or that they have become heavier, or blood-tinged mid-cycle vaginal discharge, etc. If left untreated, some diseases can cause dangerous complications that are much more difficult to treat and over the long term can lead to infertility.
Gynecological check-ups usually include breast exam, internal and external pelvic exam (the bladder, uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix and ovaries are checked), Pap smear and other tests. A Pap smear is a test for cancer of the cervix done by taking the cells from the cervix and checking them for the abnormalities that could turn into cancer or be cancer. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should have a pelvic exam and a General Women's Wellness Exam once per year and a Pap smear once every two years.
There are other reasons to visit a gynecologist:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle. Irregular or very painful and abundant menstrual bleedings can indicate a disease. If it is been three months since the last period, it is worth seeing a doctor as well.
- When choosing a birth control method. During the visit, the gynecologist will help to choose the best method – whether it is birth control pills, an intrauterine device, diaphragm, or an implant.
- Menopause. The gynecologist will help to find the best solution to relieve the symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, heartbeats, etc.
- Discomfort and pain. Symptoms like vaginal burning and itching can result from yeast or bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases or urinary tract infections.