Women's Health: Optimizing Time with Your Doctor

Women's Health
Optimizing Time with Your Doctor
by Kenneth L. Noller, MD
President, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Your ob-gyn is your partner in health care, and regular visits can help you stay in the best health possible. Routine preventive care ensures that women receive age-appropriate screenings, exams, and immunizations and allows physicians to identify and treat common problems before they become serious health risks.
ACOG recommends that most women 18 and older see their doctor every year for a well-woman check-up. The visit consists of a general examination (height, weight, and blood pressure), a breast exam to check for breast masses or abnormalities, and a pelvic exam to assess reproductive health. Your pelvic examination may include a Pap test, and your doctor may order blood, urine, and STD tests if necessary.
You should also contact your doctor right away if you have a health problem or notice changes in your body between yearly visits, such as unusual discharge or vaginal itching.
Communication is key to making the most out of your visit to the ob-gyn. A little preparation before your appointment can help you to address all your questions involving any new or ongoing health problems without getting flustered or feeling rushed. The next time you see your physician, keep the following tips in mind: When you schedule your appointment: Be clear about the purpose of your visit. Specify if you're coming in for an annual check-up, a particular medical problem, or an ongoing health condition.
Before your appointment: Write down a list of specific questions and concerns that you want to discuss with your doctor. If you are ill or have noticed unusual changes, make a list of the symptoms that you have experienced.
Always take a list of your current medications-both prescribed and over-the-counter-and supplements that you take with you to your appointment. You may also want to make sure that your doctor's office has received any lab results that need to be reviewed.
During your visit: Address the most pressing issues first-even the embarrassing ones-so you won't forget to discuss them. If you don't understand something that your doctor has said, don't hesitate to ask for an additional explanation.
Be upfront about all aspects of your health and lifestyle when your doctor asks about your medical background. Complete and honest answers about your personal and family health histories, your current diet and exercise habits, sexual practices, and whether you use tobacco, alcohol, or drugs will help your doctor give the best advice for your health needs.
Being prepared before your visit can help you and your ob-gyn make the most of your time together.