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Girl Talk: Celebrate Women’s History Month by taking charge of your reproductive health

It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable when it comes to discussing reproductive health — especially as a woman.

It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable when it comes to discussing reproductive health — especially as a woman. But, as we kick off Women's History Month and the celebration of women everywhere, it is more important than ever to value and take care of your body.

Baylor Scott & White Health is here to help answer some tough, but common, women’s health questions.

At what age should my daughter see a gynecologist?

There are many reasons why a young woman may need to see a gynecologist. Tracy A. Banks, MD on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - McKinney, says “Many young women in their teens may need to see a gynecologist for medical conditions such as abnormal or painful periods, STD testing or birth control. Young women do not need to start pap smear screening until age 21.”

Women over 30 should set up an annual exam, but may not need a pap smear. Women between ages 21 and 29 only need a pap smear every three years.

“A good time to bring your daughter to see a gynecologist would be between ages 17-19 so they can establish a relationship, ask questions, and get comfortable with taking ownership of their own bodies,” says Banks.

I have really heavy periods, but I am not ready for a hysterectomy. Are there any other options?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as bleeding that has occured longer than 7 days and/or fills a pad or tampon in under 2 hours. The CDC says this can occur because of reproductive, hormonal, or other underlying treatable illnesses.

“There are many options to treat heavy menstrual bleeding,” says Tiffany Jackson, MD and Medical Director of Robotic Surgery and OB/GYN on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White - Plano. “A minimally invasive hysterectomy has a recovery that allows a patient to return to activities of daily living in one to two weeks. Additionally, there are several procedures that can spare the uterus, such as the sonata procedure or endometrial ablation.”

The sonata procedure refers to the non-surgical treatment of noncancerous growths in the uterus where an ultrasound is used to locate the growths. Then, radiofrequency energy is used to shrink and ease symptoms of the growth. Endometrial ablation is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the uterine lining to reduce heavy bleeding.

Under any circumstance, Dr. Jackson says that patients should always ask their gynecologists questions and make sure that they understand all treatment options available.

How can I set myself up to have a vaginal delivery or reduce my risk for Cesarean section?

According to Angela Stoehr, MD on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Centennial, the most important part of a healthy pregnancy is getting regular prenatal care. This care includes visiting a healthcare professional who specializes in pregnancy, delivery, and/or postpartum care every month after the eight week mark.

“They can guide you through diet, exercise, medications, and birthing options to reduce your chances of operative delivery,” Stoehr says. “Make sure to have open conversations about your wishes surrounding delivery, so that there are no surprises for you or your provider once you're in labor.”

What is causing me to have pain with sex?

Dr. Stoehr says that the most common problems include vaginal dryness, lack of natural lubrication, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.

“Everything from skin conditions to muscle problems may be the culprit,” says Stoehr. “Your regular gynecologist will rule out the common problems, as well as pelvic masses that can cause sexual pain, such as fibroids or ovarian cysts. If those have been ruled out, seeing a specialist in sexual pain problems might be warranted.”

In order to live a healthy life, it is important to be open with healthcare professionals. This includes asking the tough questions. You will find that they are more than happy to address even your most uncomfortable concerns. After all, the best way to celebrate your body is to take care of it.

Physicians provide clinical services as members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health’s subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and do not provide clinical services as employees or agents of those medical centers or Baylor Scott & White Health. (2022 Baylor Scott & White Health)