Many women don’t think about their reproductive health until they encounter a problem – and it gets worse. Early detection can save lives.
However, taking care of your womanhood can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Let’s simplify the process with these tips:
1. See Your Gynecologist Regularly
When it comes to female reproductive health, a gynecologist is your ally. They can guide you through life-changing decisions, like when to have a baby and what contraception is best for you. Regular gynecological exams also help your doctor detect any health issues early on. Depending on their findings, they can refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Women should get their first gynecological exam between 13 and 15 or as soon as they start menstruating. They should already see one at 21 and then visit yearly unless the doctor has to monitor a symptom, condition, or treatment plan.
However, regardless of your age, see one if you experience reproductive issues, such as abnormal bleeding, discomfort during sex, or discharge.
You’re in control of your own body and health. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything you don’t know about. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make decisions regarding your reproductive health care.
2. Undergo Regular Screenings
Just as you go for screenings for other health concerns, you need to do the same for your reproductive health. These include:
- Mammograms: Women should have a mammogram every year at 40 to help detect breast cancer. But those with a genetic mutation can begin as early as 25. They can then complement this test with breast ultrasound, especially if they have dense breast tissues.
- Pap Tests: A pap test screens for cervical cancer and is recommended yearly for women between 21 and 65 years old. You then have to repeat it every three years.
- HPV Tests: HPV or human papillomavirus is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Women need an HPV test every five years to determine their risk of developing it.
- STD Screening: Go to a walk-in STD testing facility and get tested for STDs every year or depending on your sexual activity.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: This test is for women who are at high risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. It screens the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus for any abnormalities.
3. Track Your Menstrual Cycle
Tracking your menstrual cycle is one way to be proactive about your reproductive health. You can then share the information with your gynecologist who, in turn, can help you understand it better.
There are various ways to track your period: Apps like Flo and Period Tracker keep track of dates, flow, and symptoms. Some doctors even use period-tracking software to help them diagnose any issues a woman might have.
You can also track your cycle by simply noting down the days of your periods and their duration in a notebook or calendar. Doing so will help you determine if there’s an irregularity, such as:
- Too long between periods
- Irregular periods
- Heavier-than-usual menstrual flow
- Extreme pain during menstruation
- Spotting between periods
If you experience any of these, make an appointment with your gynecologist. They can help identify the cause and provide treatment if necessary.
However, remember that every woman’s cycle is different. Don’t worry if yours doesn’t follow the textbook pattern.
4. Monitor Your Hormone Levels
Hormones play a huge role in our reproductive health. Unfortunately, we can’t always see or feel the effects they have on our bodies immediately or until they cause other problems. For this reason, you have to monitor your hormone levels.
These include your reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. You should also monitor your cortisol, a stress hormone. High levels can lead to fertility problems and other reproductive health issues down the road. Other hormone markers to track are androgens or testosterone, thyroid hormones, insulin, and cholesterol.
If you have a hormonal imbalance, your doctor will prescribe treatments such as birth control or hormone therapies. They may also recommend ways to naturally balance your hormones through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
5. Practice Proper Hygiene
Do you know how to clean your vagina? Your sexual organs also need proper cleaning to avoid infections and other health problems.
Avoid douching or washing your vagina with soap as it can disrupt its natural bacteria balance. These bacteria help keep pathogens at bay, so if you wash them off too often, they won’t be able to do their job.
You should also wipe from front to back every time you use the bathroom, especially after a bowel movement. Avoid using harsh soaps or body washes that can irritate your vagina and cause yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
Avoid wearing thongs or underwear made of non-breathable fabrics like lace. This will help keep your vaginal area dry and prevent yeast infections. Finally, make sure you change your pads or tampons every four to six hours to avoid bacteria build-up.
Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to taking care of your reproductive health. By being proactive and understanding your body better, you can make informed decisions about your health care.