Women have special health needs throughout life

Even when feeling well, women have good reasons to see their doctor regularly, especially during their child-bearing years.

One key question might come up at your annual visit: “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” Whatever your answer, your provider can help you with your goal.

If you do become pregnant, early and regular prenatal care is important.

And later in life, it’s time to discuss mammogram frequency with your doctor. 

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

One key question

Whether or not you would like to become pregnant in any given year, you have choices to make. If you are planning a baby, or not on birth control, it is important that you take certain steps:

  • Stop using alcohol and tobacco because these can affect your baby’s health.
  • Start taking vitamins, like folic acid to ward off birth defects.
  • Catch up on your shots, like a measles-mumps-rubella booster.

“You could be pregnant for weeks before you realize it,” says Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director for Columbia Pacific CCO. “These are just a few steps to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.”

When it comes to planning to have a baby, avoiding pregnancy or trying to overcome barriers to getting pregnant, your doctor can guide you.

If you would like to avoid getting pregnant for a time, your doctor can advise on the risks and benefits of birth control methods. Some women like the ease of an IUD or implants. They are long-term methods that can be reversed and you do not have to remember to take a pill every day. IUDs and Implants are extremely effective forms of birth control. Other women prefer a daily pill or weekly patch.

“All women who have not gone through menopause, and do not want to become pregnant, should consider using contraception,” says Dr. Koreishi. “Pregnancy is possible at any age.”

Timely prenatal care

If a woman doesn’t already have a regular doctor, finding one early in pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and baby. A trusting relationship with your provider goes a long way toward a comfortable pregnancy. And already being a patient assures you’ll get care when you need it. 

“A doctor can assess your health risks,” says Dr. Koreishi. “The doctor can also make sure your pregnancy dating is accurate. A lot depends on carrying your baby to full term, and you need to know when that is.”

Some important health services you should get while pregnant include:

  • Making sure you are on the right vitamins and that you have a healthy diet
  • Checking your medication list to make sure it is safe
  • Diabetes screening
  • Whooping cough vaccine toward the end of your pregnancy to protect your baby.
  • Dental care, because some women develop gum disease while pregnant. Getting teeth cleaned is safe for mother and baby and helps prevent problems.
  • A flu shot if it is flu season

“It is best if pregnant women go to see the doctor by Week 10,” says Dr. Koreishi. “Getting early prenatal care helps you maximize your health and minimize your risks.”

Breast cancer screening

Women who are 50 to 74 years old are recommended for mammograms every other year. Research shows this age group gets the greatest benefit from screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 80 percent of invasive breast cancer, and nearly all breast cancer deaths, are in women older than 50.

“If you’re under 50 and concerned about breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your family’s medical history and see what’s best for you,” says Dr. Tanya Kapka, a CareOregon medical director.

Some women may delay screening, even though the process now just takes minutes, and staff minimizes discomfort. With more than a quarter-million cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed every year, putting off your screening is not worth the risk.

“Screening saves lives,” Dr. Kapka says “Frequent screening allows us to detect problems early. Get screened for peace of mind.”

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