If you have kids, hopefully you had a friend and ally in your OB/GYN. This is one friendship you want to keep.
Many women consider their obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) to be their primary care provider, particularly during the childbearing years. You may wonder how important this relationship is as you move from childbirth to the busy mom phase. It is easy to postpone our own health as we chase our toddlers.
Even as our kids begin to tie their own shoes or — and yes this does seem to “happen overnight” — drive themselves to school, many women continue to postpone preventative healthcare.
Accidents, cardiovascular disease and cancer are the three leading causes of death among women 18 years old and older. Once women reach 45 years of age, accidents drop to third place and heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death.
Your OB/GYN is in a unique position to reduce your risks for these conditions through screening and health promotion. Problems take root many decades before the signs of heart disease and cancer appear, so prevention needs to begin early.
Guarding your heart from heart disease
According to statistics, women tend to live longer than men and in the U.S., we are predicted to outlive our guys by five years. While that is good news, 90 percent of us have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, and we die from it proportionally more often than men.
To get an idea about your risk for heart disease, visit with your OB/GYN to help you identify your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol numbers.
But it’s not just about the well-publicized risk factors. Certain events during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or other labor complications, may also increase your risk beyond these commonly discussed risks. Keeping in touch with your OB/GYN can give you specific insight into how these factors might influence your health down the road.
Your OB/GYN can identify all your risk factors and help you develop a plan to reduce or eliminate them.
Cancer is the other significant health threat we face and there is a clear path to prevention here as well. You may realize that Pap smears screen for cervical cancer, but did you know cervical cancer is related to exposure to a virus? Or that it is vaccine-preventable in most cases?
You may also know breast cancer is the most often diagnosed cancer in women, but did you know there are things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer?
Regular cancer screening for women should begin in your 20s with cervical Pap smear screens and progress to mammograms and colonoscopies in your 40s. These regular screenings can diagnose cancer earlier and reduce the damage cancer can cause if left undetected. Your OB/GYN can also help you identify ways to avoid cancers altogether.
As you can see, it’s important to keep a lifelong relationship with your OB/GYN, even after your childbearing years, in order to maintain a healthy life. So, pick up the phone — it’s time to call that old friend and visit your OB/GYN.
Don’t have an OB/GYN? Find one on the medical staff at Baylor Scott White Health.