One of four articles in a series about what to expect at different stages of womanhood.
When a woman leaves her 20s and enters the 30s, the transition is often met with reluctance. Women may feel that their youthfulness is fading, despite having many years ahead. However bittersweet, this is an important decade to maintain or establish healthy habits.
Scott & White physician Lauren Smith, MD is committed to helping women and sees patients at the Temple Clinic. She specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, which gives her special insight on health issues facing women.
Snapshot of a Woman in Her 30s
If you’re a woman in your 30s…
- You may show some of the first subtle signs of aging
- You may be achieving more stability in your personal life or career
- You may be wondering about having a child or additional children
- You may be trying to balance children, school, work or other stressors
- You may be suffering from sleep disorders or other unhealthy habits
- You may be unaware of the health risks or need for gynecological care
Get Familiar with Fertility
In your 30s, Dr. Smith recommends evaluating your fertility, or ability to achieve pregnancy.
“Fertility declines gradually at age 32 years, and decreases more rapidly after age 37 years,” says Dr. Smith.
The peak of fertility years is in the 20s and some women struggle with pregnancy as they enter the 30s. After a few years, there is an increased risk of birth defects, conception difficulties and miscarriage. As you move into your 30s, your body continues to produce egg cells, but almost half the amount you had during adolescence.
During this time, you may be debating whether you’d like to have a child or to have another. This can be an emotionally challenging time that your provider can help with. If you’re having trouble conceiving, you can seek professional help.
“Evaluation of infertility is recommended after a year of unprotected intercourse for women 34-years-old and younger and after six months for women 35-years-old and older,” says Dr. Smith.
Be Open about Menstrual Problems or Sexual Concerns
As a woman in your 30s, you may also experience a shift in your hormones that can cause changes to your menstrual cycle. You may experience some heavy bleeding or urinary incontinence, especially if you’ve had children.
All of these changes may not sound too great, but don’t despair. If you’ve established a trusting relationship with your provider there are ways they can help.
One way your doctor helps you is by performing the proper screenings at your annual visit. At each visit you may be screened for STDs and cervical cancer by way of the recommended Pap smear. Through these tests you can discuss your gynecological status and help you adjust to the changes your body is experiencing.
If you are facing any sexual problems physically or emotionally, it is important to talk about these with your provider. Contraception, genetic counseling, intimacy concerns or infertility can all be discussed in an open and safe environment.
Get Proper Screenings
In addition to gynecological screenings, Dr. Smith recommends a breast exam every one to three years. This is especially true if breast cancer runs in your family or there are particular concerns. Younger women are not at as high of risk but breast cancer cases may be increasing in frequency for this population. Routine mammograms are not recommended in the 30s because the signs are more difficult to find in pre-menopausal women due to the density of the breast tissue, which makes it more difficult to detect problems.
Work on Your Relationship–With your Doctor
Up to this stage of life you may feel busy enough worrying about your child’s doctor appointments. However, if you’ve delayed getting a primary care doctor past having a pediatrician it is a good time to establish care.
At your personal visit, your doctor can discuss your family history with you. Dr. Smith says this evaluation can help you see if you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other serious conditions.
Don’t Neglect Weight, Nutrition or Exercise
At every stage as a woman, it can feel difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Instead of feeling guilty, overwhelmed or in too deep, use your 30s as a time to make positive changes.
Dr. Smith recommends calculating your healthy weight in relation to your height, called your body mass index, BMI.
“Having a BMI of 19 to 24.9 is normal, 25-29.9 is overweight, and 30 or greater is obese,” explains Dr. Smith. You can use this website to calculate your BMI.
In addition to a healthy weight, the following nutrients are important for you as a woman:
- Calcium (1000mg per day) and vitamin D
- Folic acid (400mcg per day)
- Iron (18mg per day)
“Most women should eat and drink about 2,000 calories per day,” says Dr. Smith. “These recommendations depend on age, activity level and body size.”
As you evaluate your weight and diet, exercise is a major part of that equation. Dr. Smith says exercise can help decrease the risk of chronic disease and recommends at least 30 minutes a day.
All of these recommendations may seem like more to add to your already busy life. However full your plate seems, consider these recommendations as a way to keep you happy and healthy. Following the guidelines for proper screenings, checkups, family planning and wellness can bring new meaning throughout your 30s and in the years to come.