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Ask the Experts at Seasons OB/GYN

When is the right time for my daughter to first see an OB/GYN?
"If a young woman is progressing comfortably through puberty, we suggest an exam at age 18 as the right time for a first visit. If you are having any excessive pain or cramping, or are concerned about the frequency or intensity of menstrual periods, you should come in sooner for an evaluation," said Dr. Pamela Kridgen. In addition, Dr. Kridgen advises all young women to see a health specialist before, or as soon as, they are sexually active. "This visit is a good time to get to know your gynecologist, go over your medical and sexual history, and ask questions about sex, reproduction, contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases," said Dr. Kridgen. "There is no such thing as a silly question, and a woman who understands her body is less likely to take risks and will stay healthier."

How often do women need pelvic exams? Does your age make a difference?
"All women should get an annual pelvic exam to check for any changes or infections in their reproductive system," said Dr. Kridgen. Between ages 21 and 30, women should have a yearly exam, with a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer every 3 years; older than age 30, the recommendation remains for yearly exams, with Pap and HPV screening every 3-5 years, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

What other preventive screenings are needed?
"At Seasons OB/GYN, we focus on the whole patient, so we make sure that we review weight, blood pressure and general health at each visit," said Dr. Kridgen. "We discuss how patients can avoid risks, use contraception or perhaps get information to plan a family."

Some women, who use their OB/GYN doctor as a primary care physician, should request immunizations and other screenings appropriate for their age, such as colorectal cancer screenings, blood tests for cholesterol and heart disease, and fasting blood glucose for diabetes. ACOG recommends pelvic and breast exams annually starting at age 18. Preventive mammogram screenings should be done every year, usually starting at age 40. For women over age 65, ACOG suggests a bone density screening every two years; earlier for post-menopausal women with risk factors for osteoporosis.

"It is also important that women of all ages understand preventive measures that they can take to strengthen and protect their bones, including exercise, good nutrition and sufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium," said Dr. Kridgen.

Who should get an HPV test or vaccine and when?
Some research studies have indicated that testing women over age 35 for the human papilloma virus (HPV) is more accurate for detecting cervical diseases than the Pap smear. "If you've had an HPV test that was negative that doesn't mean you don't need to have a pelvic exam," said Dr. Kridgen. There is now a vaccine available to prevent the transmission of high risk HPV. We recommend that all women receive this vaccine through the age of 26. Additionally, parents of adolescent boys should discuss this with their pediatricians and young male adults should discuss this vaccine with their PCPs.

When should I worry about STDs?
HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are all sexually transmitted diseases. With each new sexual partner, the risk of getting HPV increases by 15 percent. "The best thing is to be honest with your doctor, particularly if you have multiple partners, so STDs are detected early and we can treat you more effectively," said Dr. Kridgen. According to the ACOG guidelines, women up to age 26 should get tested for chlamydia yearly if they are sexually active or pregnant.

What problems should prompt a visit to an OB/GYN?
Women should see their gynecologist if they experience any unusual and/or persistent vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods or bleeding after sexual intercourse. They should also see their doctor if they have any unusual tenderness or pain in the breasts, or rashes, redness or itchiness in the genital region.

At what point in family planning should I talk to my doctor?
"Of course, we want to meet with any patient who is considering starting a family, so she can prepare for a healthy baby," said Dr. Kridgen. "When we counsel couples in early pregnancy, we emphasize that moms-to-be should eat well and exercise too."

Dr. Kridgen and her colleagues work with couples throughout a pregnancy, offering resources for nutrition, breastfeeding instruction and childbirth support, and discussing options for care during labor, delivery and anesthesia. Monthly visits throughout pregnancy involve the mother and spouse or supportive loved ones. "Regular prenatal care helps us monitor the baby's growth, the mother's health and allows us to catch any problems early," said Dr. Kridgen.

What other services are offered through Seasons OB/GYN?
Seasons OB/GYN offers comprehensive gynecologic and obstetrical services. The doctors welcome you to schedule visits for prenatal, maternity and postpartum care; infertility counseling, conception and family planning; menopausal care; and well-woman services including Pap tests, pelvic exams, mammography and osteoporosis screening. They also treat gynecologic problems like amenorrhea, abnormal menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, endometriosis, bladder issues, incontinence and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

"Though we believe that women should learn all they can about their personal healthcare needs, there is no substitute for actually seeing a doctor," said Dr. Kridgen. "We strongly encourage all individuals to consult a health care professional to get answers to their specific medical questions."

Seasons OB/GYN has offices in Bloomfield (Pittsburgh), Cranberry and McMurray. For more information, call 1-855-281-GYNE (4963) or visit www.seasonsobgyn.com.

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