30 Jan

A Guide to Reproductive Health

By: Selfmed Medical Scheme ABC OF BEE


Female reproductive system | How to keep it healthy

Almost half of the human population is comprised of females. These are the mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts in a community that are helping to shape future generations. International Gynaecological Awareness Day aims to empower women from around the world to be actively and confidently involved in their gynaecological and reproductive healthcare. Here we shed some light on the unique health needs of women and girls.

Why is female healthcare important?

At some point in a woman’s life, she will be faced with the physical symptoms and challenges related to puberty, pregnancy, sexuality or reproductive health. At these crucial milestones in a woman’s life, it may be beneficial to seek out professional medical expertise to ensure optimum wellbeing.

A gynaecologist is a medical specialist trained in the branch of physiology and medicine which deals with the functions and diseases specific to women and girls, especially those affecting the reproductive system.

Most adult women are encouraged to see a gynaecologist annually for a full check-up which will include a number of health screenings to rule out illness. The frequency at which you visit this specialist will depend on your age, circumstances and medical history. However, it is recommended that your first visit take place once you are sexually active or by the age of 21.

What can you expect from a gynaecologist visit?

A gynaecologist will perform a pelvic and breast exam during a routine check-up, as well as run a series of tests (urine or blood tests) to rule out any potential illness or abnormalities that could affect your reproductive or sexual health.

A clinical breast exam will be performed to detect any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue, underarm and collarbone areas. This test should be performed regularly, especially for those women with a history of breast cancer. You can also find out about doing self-detection breast examinations in the comfort of your own home. If any irregularities are found, your gynaecologist may suggest a mammogram, which is an early detection screening tool to help identify breast cancer in women. Early detection of breast cancer will greatly improve your chances of treatment and recovery.

As part of a full gynaecological check-up, your doctor will also perform a pap smear, which is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. During this procedure, your gynaecologist will collect cells from your cervix to test for any abnormalities or pre-cancerous development.

A gynaecologist is also the medical specialist trained to assist females with family planning methods and available contraception. They will take your medical history into account and will be able to advise you according to your specific sexual healthcare or contraceptive requirements.

Wellbeing through empowerment

A gynaecologist visit may seem daunting but an understanding of the female anatomy and unique healthcare requirements may help to prevent disease and educate women about the many wonders of the female body.

Women, and even young girls, who may suspect that they are pregnant, are encouraged to visit a gynaecologist throughout their pregnancies to receive prenatal medication and advice, and to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and birthing experience. The first gynaecological visit during pregnancy is typically around 8 weeks after your last menstrual period. This will be your first test to ascertain the viability of your pregnancy. On average, a pregnant woman can expect to be assessed by a gynaecologist around 10 times during a full-term pregnancy.

For those hoping to conceive, or struggling to fall pregnant, a gynaecologist may also be your first port of call. Here you will receive vital information regarding fertility treatments, medications and even birth control options and related interventions as per your requirements.

Furthermore, older women at the onset of menopause are also encouraged to visit their gynaecologist to ensure optimum health as they age.

Listen to your body

No matter a woman’s age or circumstances, it is important to listen to your body and take note of any fluctuations or irregularities that may be causes of concern. Changes in a female’s menstruation cycle could further warrant a gynaecologist visit. Irregular bleeding, pelvic pain or missed periods are some of the symptoms you should look out for. Vaginal itching, pelvic pain and discomfort could also hint at underlying issues such as a urinary tract infection, yeast infection or sexually transmitted illness.

Such symptoms should be checked out promptly. Chat to your gynaecologist about these and any other signs and concerns that could negatively affect your reproductive health.

Increased knowledge and access to medical services are empowering lives. Medical advancements continue to improve the well being of women and girls from around the globe.

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