Women’s Health at Each Stage of Life

Dr. Angela Parson of Hampton Roads OB/GYN

A woman’s medical needs change throughout her life. From puberty to menopause, women should have a good relationship with an experienced OB/GYN who can help them navigate their body’s changes and address their evolving health needs. Here are three of the most common women’s health questions we hear:

How can doctors help girls during puberty?
Some girls enter puberty as early as age eight, while others begin later at ages 17 or 18. An OB/GYN can treat painful, long or heavy menstrual periods. As women enter their teen years and early 20s, they should get human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations. HPV is America’s most common sexually transmitted virus, and the vaccine can protect women from HPV infections that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts. These vaccinations are most effective from age 9 to 26 before sexual exposure.

When should women get pap smears?
The pap smear is a test for cervical cancer and is the most important physical assessment for women. The gynaecologist collects cells from the cervix and checks for abnormalities. Women should begin getting pap smears at age 21 and continue about every two to three years until she reaches 70. Some women may think they stop seeing their gynecologist after they stop having children, but regular exams are necessary to monitor for abnormal paps.

What is perimenopause, and how does it affect women?
Perimenopause is a phase that surrounds menopause. Menopause is a natural process during which menstruation and fertility end. It typically occurs for American women at about age 51. Perimenopause can start as early as 10 years before menopause happens. During perimenopause, a woman may experience irregular periods, hot flashes, insomnia and vaginal dryness. Modern medical advances now offer a variety of treatments, including hormone therapy, to make this transition more comfortable.

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