Health Matters: Every woman needs a well-woman visit

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Thursday was International Women's Day — a day to celebrate strong women in our lives, female role models, and hopefully — ourselves. When was the last time you had a well-woman visit with your gynecologist or midwife? An annual visit is a great time to discuss healthy habits, address concerns, or have your questions answered about early detection of diseases.

Every woman has different healthcare needs: teenagers, menopausal women, trans people with gynecologic needs, queer women, straight women, those considering pregnancy and those wanting contraception. An annual gives you the opportunity to discuss what's important to you personally, as well as considerations for everyone: exercise for a healthy heart and strong bones, keeping mentally healthy, and an overview of the best ways to take care of yourself. During the visit, your provider will discuss your medical history, perform a physical exam, and assess for any additional health concerns or risks.

Often, patients may be hesitant to discuss issues with their healthcare provider that they may find embarrassing or private, such as sexual problems or practices, or may believe that intimate issues are not relevant to their health. Problems with sexual function, such as pain with sex or vaginal dryness, are very common and worth discussing with your provider. Healthy sex is an important part of overall health.

Additionally, patients are sometimes reluctant to visit a provider because of the physical examination portion of the visit. Our bodies do incredible things for us in our daily lives, but can also create odors, hemorrhoids, gastrointestinal issues, urinary incontinence, and other issues which may be embarrassing. These are medical problems to be professionally identified and treated with your healthcare team - and, if left uncared for, may develop into more serious conditions. Remember that although we want to see you every year, a pap test is not necessary annually and a pelvic exam may not be recommended for everyone. Remember that you can ask questions, or decline any part of the exam — it's your body!

Any health information you reveal to your provider is kept confidential, by law. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to share your concerns or questions during your visit. No question or concern is "stupid." No topic is off the table. As medical providers, we are trained to provide you with the care and resources for you to be as healthy as possible — with respect, not judgement. We truly want to help you celebrate a full, balanced, and healthy life.

Kate Lucy, CNM is a new certified nurse midwife with Brattleboro OB/GYN, a department of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Specializing in women's health, obstetrics and gynecology, Brattleboro OB/GYN offers preventive care for all ages, from adolescence to menopause, as well as advanced infertility treatments. Located at 21 Belmont Ave., the practice can be reached at 802-251-9965.

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