As a teen or young woman, you have many things to balance on your plate. It can be a challenge to make time for school, work, family, friends, and more. But of all the things you juggle, there’s nothing more important than your health.
Women have unique health needs at every age. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 16% of women have poor health. One way to catch any health problems early and ensure you stay healthy from adolescence through older age is with an annual well-woman exam.
Women’s health expert, Rickie Guida, WHNP-BC, at Alpenglow Gynecology in Littleton, Colorado, specializes in providing personalized lifelong care to teens and women during the childbearing years, and women in menopause.
One question many young women have is at what age they should schedule their first well-woman exam. Keep reading to learn the answer plus what you can expect at this important preventive appointment.
Why are well-woman exams important?
Women of all ages have unique health issues and needs. Some health issues that present differently or have different repercussions for women compared to men include, but aren’t limited to:
- Bone health: Women are more often affected by osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
- Genitourinary health: Women experience urinary tract health issues more frequently
- Heart disease: Women get different symptoms and die more often after a heart attack than men
- Sexually transmitted diseases: STDs are usually harder to detect in women and often have more serious repercussions
- Mental health: Women have depression and anxiety at higher rates than men
As this partial list shows, understanding what’s involved in being a healthy woman can be complicated. The good news is that by seeing a women’s health specialist like Rickie, many issues can be reversed or prevented with early detection at your well-woman exam.
As a young woman, you can make healthy changes today that will help you live a longer, healthier life and protect your reproductive health in the future. Your annual well-woman exam offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate your health and reveals areas to focus on improving.
When should I have my first well-woman exam?
At Alpenglow Gynecology, we follow the recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that young women schedule their first well woman exam between ages 13-15.
It’s important to understand, however, that most young women don’t need a full pelvic exam until age 21. Depending on any symptoms you have and your health history, Rickie may recommend an external exam or breast exam as needed.
What happens at annual well-woman appointments?
The nature of your appointment depends on your age and personal needs. For teens and young women, Rickie treats the well-woman exam as a time to get to know each other and establish rapport.
For example, she may talk to you about topics that affect your overall health, like sexuality, diet, exercise, mental health, substance use and abuse, and more. You can also use your appointment to ask Rickie questions you have and get reliable answers, including questions about birth control, menstruation, and PMS.
Most well-woman appointments involve some type of physical exam, though not always a pelvic exam. Some things you can expect at a well-woman exam include:
- Height, weight, and body mass index (BMI)
- Blood pressure, temperature, and pulse
- Any health screenings that are recommended based on your needs (e.g., STD testing)
- Evaluating the sounds of your heart, lungs, and bowels
- Being given any immunizations based on your age and risk factors
And as we mentioned earlier, based on your age and any risk factors, Rickie may also conduct a breast exam to check for lumps and other issues and a pelvic exam with or without a Pap smear.
Learn more about well-woman exams and the right time to schedule your first appointment by contacting Rickie at Alpenglow Gynecology online or over the phone today!