I love my ob-gyn. Not only do I never fail to keep my annual appointment with her, but I just really like seeing her to catch up. She delivered my last son and was with me during some of the most intimate moments of my life. She’s a decade older than me, so she’s great about giving me advice on both medical (the best kind of birth control to use post-baby) and non-medical (keep working, she encouraged me, it’s your respite away from the kids) issues. Turns out, your ob-gyn can help you with so much more than you think, from weight management to skin care. And while many women forget (or are too busy) to schedule their annual physical with their general practitioner, they almost always remember to see their ob-gyn each year. Read on for things you may not know that your ob-gyn can do for you…
1. Screen you for breast cancer. “Ob-gyns serve as the first line of care in detecting breast cancer and colon cancer,” says Antonio R. Pizarro, MD, an ob-gyn in private practice in Shreveport, Louisiana. Many obs give women a breast exam during their annual visit and are the first to notice lumps, bumps, and other changes in their breasts. Also, many ob-gyns offer to do a rectal exam, which can check for suspicious growths.
2. Recognize and treat depression. When it comes to depression or anxiety, many women feel uncomfortable sharing their concerns with friends and or even family. They may feel embarrassed or guilty about their moods. Enter your ob-gyn, who you see yearly and often (especially if she delivered your babies), have an emotional connection with. “Ob-gyns are not psychiatrists, but they are trained to screen for and evaluate mood disorders. While every case is unique, your ob-gyn may start you on medication or refer you to a psychiatrist,” says Jared Heathman, MD, a psychiatrist in Cypress, Texas. He notes that obstetricians monitor the research on medications to know the risks to you and your baby, if you’re pregnant.
3. Exam your skin for cancerous moles. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles on their body, most if not all of them benign. While you should see a dermatologist regularly to get them checked for skin cancer, most women don’t. Your ob-gyn, however, can perform a skin check during your annual appointment. True, she is not an expert in moles, but she can alert you to anything that appears to be suspicious, and she can recommend a good dermatologist for a thorough exam.
4. Advise you on managing your weight. You know that maintaining your ideal weight is key to your overall good health, and your ob-gyn is a great person to lead the charge since she sees, and weighs you, yearly. She can talk to you about your BMI, which should fall 18.5 to 24.9 percent range, and discuss any medical reasons your weight might be fluctuating.
5. Discuss family planning. Maybe your husband wants another child, but you don’t. Or you’re worried about certain genetic conditions that you may pass along in pregnancy. Your ob-gyn is not only a great resource, but she’s there to support you during big life changes. Talking to her freely about your concerns (and fears) is something many women do. Also, if you have daughters, your ob-gyn is a great resource to help have “the talk” with them.
6. Catch bone and joint issues. Osteoarthritis, a common and often devastating joint problem, affects millions of women. “Loss of mineral in the bone starts at about 35 for most women, well below the traditional menopause starting point,” says Clifford J. Goodman, Jr., MD, an ob-gyn with MomDoc in Phoenix, Arizona. An early warning sign is loss of height. “Yearly measurement and recording of your height is something your ob-gyn can do.” After age 40, regular (usually every two years) bone scans are important. “This is a situation where prevention is much easier than a cure.”
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