Women have unique health care needs and issues. Sometimes we are quick to dismiss something because we don’t think it is important, or we’re simply so busy we let it slip into the category of “I’ll look into that later.” We have all been there.
It’s also easy to just accept things you’ve heard from a friend or online as truth. Many women go their entire lives believing myths about their health that simply aren’t true. Here are a few examples of some of the myths women believe that could negatively affect their health:
1. Myth: I only need a gynecologist if I’m pregnant or trying to get pregnant
Fact: Gynecologists see women during every phase of life and provide services that go far beyond having babies. In fact, your first well-woman visit is recommended between age 13 and 15, and women should continue with exams through menopause and into their senior years. I became a Certified Menopause Practitioner through the North American Menopause Society so I can help women of all ages. Too often, women are told their discomfort is normal and natural and they should “just deal with it.” That’s not good enough – I can help them.
2.Myth: Seeing a gynecologist is the same as going to a primary care provider. I don’t need both.
There is some overlap between a primary care and gynecologist visit – we’ll both check your weight, height and blood pressure; we’ll both ask about general health concerns – but your well-woman exam includes specific tests women need to stay healthy. These include a pelvic exam and Pap smear to check for cervical cancer and abnormalities in the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, vulva, ovaries and uterus; plus a breast exam to pinpoint any suspicious lumps. Gynecologists can also screen for STDs. All of these tests can catch problems early when they can still be treated successfully. We also work with women on other age-appropriate screenings, like their annual mammogram.
3. Myth: I’d be too embarrassed to ask personal questions. I’ll just Google it.
Your gynecologist is a professional who is here to help, not judge. We have heard it all, and we keep your concerns confidential. You can ask about your period, sex, birth control, physical and emotional health and more. Your gynecologist can address specific concerns related to sexual health and hygiene…questions you might not be comfortable asking your primary care provider! For example, we can tell you if vaginal discharge, odor and itching is normal; or if spotting between periods is something to worry about. We understand those issues and want to help. The more open and honest your relationship is with your doctor, the more you’ll get out of your exam.
4. Myth: Taking a daily pill is my only birth control option.
Fact: There are safe and effective options that give women freedom from a daily medication. Patients can have a hormonal implant inserted under the skin of their upper arm. There are also intrauterine devices (IUD) that may be either hormonal or non-hormonal. These devices will prevent pregnancy for three to 10 years depending on the type used. They are easily removed if you wish to discontinue earlier.
5. Myth: Going months between cycles is just normal for some women.
Fact: This is not normal unless it is medically induced. Menstrual regularity is important, and not having a monthly cycle could be a sign of a serious problem. It is very uncommon for women to stop having monthly cycles before age 40. Keep track of when your cycle starts and monitor its regularity. If you have stopped having a monthly cycle before 40, see your gynecologist for evaluation right away. While pre-menopause is a possibility, conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, could also be to blame. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to serious health problems including diabetes and cancer.
6. Myth: Hot flashes, mood changes, difficulty having sex – there’s nothing I can do about these issues during menopause.
Fact: Many women have been told they just have to “deal with it” when it comes to symptoms associated with menopause. This is simply not true. A woman is in menopause when it has been 12 months since her last cycle. Typically, in their 40s or 50s, women have a natural decline in reproductive hormones. However, it is not all about the hormones, and checking hormone levels is not always the answer. Your gynecologist can perform tests to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing these symptoms, and identify treatments and medications that can help. You do not have to “just deal with it.”
Bottom line: A visit with a gynecologist like Dr. Khanna can make you healthier at any age
Dr. Khanna sees patients at Regional One Health East Campus at 6555 Quince Road, located at the Kirby exit of 385. To schedule an appointment, call 901-515-3100 or visit RegionalOneHealth.org.