Endometriosis, an inflammatory disease, affects an estimated 170 million women worldwide. That makes it one of the most common female reproductive health conditions.
However, endometriosis is only of the dozens of other health woes afflicting women. For example, many women can also develop uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors. There are also over 20 types of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) that women can be at risk of.
Fortunately, most of those health woes are treatable and even preventable. However, you need to schedule a gynecologist appointment first before treatment can start. It’s through this check-up that a specialist can diagnose and then treat your ailments.
To that end, we came up with this guide listing the top signs it’s time to say hello to a gynecologist. Read on so that you can stay on top of your female reproductive health.
1. Your Periods Are Painful or Debilitating
More than 90% of women say they experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. These include bloating, mood issues, headaches, and abdominal cramps. Many women can tolerate these unpleasant sensations, but for others, they’re unbearable.
In fact, other studies found that around 3% to 8% of women have clinically significant PMS signs. They’re significant enough to cause severe pain and even debilitation.
If you get severe PMS symptoms, it’s time to schedule a gynecologist appointment. Speaking of which, consider selecting a gynecologist who also specializes in obstetrics. This is the kind of doctor you most likely know as an OB/GYN or an obstetrician-gynecologist.
In any case, an OB/GYN or GYN specialist may perform an ultrasound to check your reproductive organs. Doing so will help rule out or establish disorders that may cause pain, such as endometriosis. The doctor will also look for signs of the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), as it can cause severe pain too.
Depending on the result of your tests, your OB/GYN or GYN doctor may have you take medications. These include pain-relieving medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If you don’t want to take meds, your doctor may recommend warm compresses and exercise.
The most important thing is that seeing an OB/GYN or GYN ensures you get a proper diagnosis. Again, that’s because the pain you feel during your periods may be due to an underlying disease.
2. You Have Very Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Aside from pain, endometriosis also often causes heavy menstrual bleeding. It occurs when the endometrium, a layer of tissue that lines the uterus, grows outside of the uterus.
PCOS can also cause abnormal, heavy bleeding during menstrual periods. Moreover, this hormonal disorder may lead to longer or infrequent periods. In the US alone, up to 5 million women have this lifelong health condition.
If you have heavy periods, it’s time to set up what may be your first gynecologist appointment. You’ll be happy to know that OB/GYN or GYN doctors can help treat both endometriosis and PCOS.
For starters, pain medications can help ease the pain that these conditions result in. Hormonal therapy, such as with birth control pills, can also help regulate periods.
3. You Have Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are menstrual cycles that fall out of the normal range. For example, you may only have your menses once every two months or so. In this case, it falls outside the typical cycles of 21 to 45 days for adolescents or 24 to 38 days for adults.
Irregular cycles can be an indication of medical conditions, such as PCOS. It can also be a sign of uterine polyps or fibroids, thyroid disorders, or even diabetes. Some cancers, vaginal or cervical abnormalities, and infections can also cause irregular periods.
However, many other factors can contribute to irregular periods, too, such as stress. Even sleep woes can affect your menses, as these conditions can make your hormones go out of whack. Eating disorders or sudden weight changes can also result in abnormal cycles.
Since there are too many possible culprits, the best thing to do is to visit a gynecologist. This way, the specialist can assess your health and find the root cause of your irregular periods. From there, the good doctor can then come up with a proper treatment plan.
4. You Don’t Get Any Menstrual Periods at All
If some women have heavy periods, some don’t menstruate at all, even if they’re not pregnant. In this case, what they have is amenorrhea, also known as absent menstruation. It’s not that common, but it still affects an estimated 3% to 4% of women worldwide.
Teenagers at least 16 years old and who haven’t had a period ever may have primary amenorrhea. Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman stops menstruating for at least three months.
Granted, absent menstruation isn’t life-threatening. However, it appears to heighten the risk of fractures of the hips or wrists. More than that, it can cause infertility and pregnancy difficulties.
So, if you haven’t had your period yet or just stopped getting it, see a gynecologist right away. For starters, amenorrhea is treatable, but the treatment depends on the cause.
For example, if the problem is due to hormonal imbalance, then you may need hormonal therapy. On the other hand, if the OB/GYN or GYN specialist detects cysts, those need to go. In some cases, even simple lifestyle changes may be enough to treat amenorrhea.
5. You See (and Smell) Discharges in Your Underwear
Some amount of white vaginal discharge is normal, especially before or at the end of your period. However, if the substance you see is thick and you also feel itchy down there, it may signal an infection.
A yellow or green discharge, especially if it has an unpleasant odor, isn’t normal either. In many cases, it can be a result of an infection called trichomoniasis. Sexual intercourse is one of the primary transmission methods of this condition.
It’s imperative to see a gynecologist as soon as you see irregular vaginal discharge. That’s because some infections don’t only cause pain; they can lead to cervical cancer, too. A perfect example is the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
At the very least, vaginal infections can be embarrassing and affect the way you live your life. For example, they may impede you from having a healthy and enjoyable sex life. That may be a good enough reason to pay an OB/GYN or GYN specialist right away.
Don’t Put Off Your Much Needed Gynecologist Appointment
As you can see, many signs can tell you it’s time to set up a gynecologist appointment. However, you don’t need to wait for these symptoms to appear; it’s better to see an OB/GYN or GYN doctor at least once a year. This way, the specialist can keep a close look at your reproductive health.
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