For comprehensive women’s health care, women should get regular gynecological exams. Yet, many women do not get regular exams after menopause because they believe they no longer need them. We’re here to set the record straight and explain why you should continue to schedule gynecological exams and what to expect from these exams once you have reached menopause.
It’s a commonly held misconception that women no longer need gynecological exams or well woman checkups after menopause. Most experts recommend continuing annual gynecological exams after menopause (yes, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy). Gynecological exams are part of preventative women’s health care. Just as you should continue seeing your dentist for checkups, it’s also important to continue to visit your gynecologist for preventative care and treatment. Taking part in health care can help you stay healthy and feel your best as you age.
Gynecological exams are important health exams for women. Most health experts recommend getting a gynecological exam at least once per year for women of all ages. Even after menopause, regular gynecological exams are important for getting the health screenings and care you need to continue to stay healthy and help with early detection of health conditions.
Our providers tailor gynecological services to you based on your medical history and other factors. However, generally a gynecological exam includes several different tests and exams rolled into one appointment.
One common part of your annual gynecological exam is the pelvic exam. This is where our provider examines your genitals, vagina, and pelvic organs both externally and internally. This exam is to help the doctor determine the overall health of your pelvic organs, such as your:
Typically our providers will also conduct a breast exam and may recommend mammograms. We also use the gynecological exam as an opportunity to talk about your overall health and take readings of your vital signs to look for any signs of potential illness. During this time, our women’s health care team also typically asks about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Your exam may also include several recommended health screenings, such as a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Therefore, a gynecological exam involves many different “pieces” to help address your health.
You no longer have a period, so why continue to schedule gynecological exams after menopause? Well, these exams address much more than just menstrual or even reproductive health. According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it’s important to continue to visit a gynecologist after menopause. Gynecological exams can help you address your health through regular health screenings and looking for underlying causes of symptoms you experience.
Scheduling regular gynecological exams at our women’s health clinic also helps you get the health screenings and preventative care you need. Screenings help assess your risk for certain health conditions and can also help with early detection and treatment. Many of the health screenings you receive during your gynecological exam look for signs of potentially serious or life-threatening conditions, which is another reason why experts recommend continuing gynecological care after menopause.
In many cases, you will also need regular Pap tests even after menopause. Current recommendations are to get a Pap test at least every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. After 65, you may be able to stop getting tests if you have had three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests in the last ten years. Our women’s health care providers can help you determine if you can stop getting regular Pap tests based on your individual risks.
Even if you no longer need a Pap test, you may still need regular pelvic exams. Regular pelvic exams can help find signs of issues with your pelvic organs. For instance, during a pelvic exam our doctor may look for signs of ovarian cysts, STIs, uterine fibroids, and cancer in your pelvic organs. Many experts recommend getting regular pelvic exams after menopause as part of preventative care.
Depending on your individual circumstances, our providers may also recommend other health screenings during your gynecological exam. We offer personalized services and recommendations to help you address your health.
Another reason to continue scheduling gynecological exams after menopause is to talk about your symptoms with our health professionals. According to one study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal Menopause, over half of women experience gynecological symptoms after menopause. Yet, many don’t seek help for these issues.
The study surveyed hundreds of post-menopausal women and found that 51% of them experienced symptoms such as itching, irritation, dryness, discharge, and odor. For 40% of those women, their symptoms caused emotional distress. Also, 33% said symptoms impacted their lifestyles. For those who were sexually active, 76% said symptoms interfered with their sex life. Despite these symptoms and effects, about one-third of the women hadn’t seen a gynecologist in two years. From the study, the researchers suggested getting regular gynecological exams and discussing any symptoms you experience.
In many cases, our women’s health care providers can help treat the underlying causes of your symptoms to help you find relief. For example, many women experience bladder symptoms such as frequency, urgency, urinary incontinence, or even burning while urinating. Many of these symptoms can be tied to vaginal atrophy, where the walls of your vagina become thin and dry, which is common after menopause.
Treating your vaginal atrophy can often help with not only your vaginal symptoms, but your bladder symptoms as well. This is just one example of how discussing your symptoms with our team can help you find treatment solutions personalized to you.
Not only can symptoms interfere with your quality of life, but they can also be a sign of something more serious. For instance, bleeding after menopause can be a warning sign of anything from non-cancerous polyps to endometrial cancer. Talking to our providers about symptoms may help with early detection of serious health conditions.
Getting quality health care is important at every age, including after menopause. Our team at HerKare provides you with quality care at every stage of life. We are here to help you take care of your overall health, whether you need preventative care or are experiencing worrying symptoms. We believe in empowering women by providing them with the personalized health care solutions they need to feel their best. Schedule a gynecological exam at one of our convenient locations or make an appointment for our other treatment services to learn how we can make a difference for you.