It is always said that prevention is the best defense against future health problems. But sometimes we can’t always predict when or what health issues may occur. Whether pregnant or not, you should have regular visits with your OBGYN. Between your normal trips for routine pap smears, health screenings, or routine pregnancy appointments, there are a few symptoms you should be aware of. These signs that might warrant a trip to your doctor.
1 – Prolonged pelvic pain and abdominal discomfort
Pelvic pain and abdominal discomfort sound like mild symptoms and for the most part they are. The occasional upset stomach, period pains, and back discomfort are normal. However, if pelvic pain and abdominal discomfort linger and don’t have an obvious cause, it’s time to see your OBGYN.
Sharp pelvic pain is something that should be tended to immediately. It might be a sign of
- a ruptured ovarian cyst,
- an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the uterus), or
- an infection.
Pelvic or abdominal pain that is more constant and lingers for a few weeks may be a sign of something more serious.
Endometriosis (a common condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside the organ) or pelvic inflammatory disease may both cause pain. Other causes include fibroids, cysts, or irritable inflammatory syndrome.
If your pelvic pain remains or your symptoms get worse, make an appointment with your doctor.
2- Bleeding between periods/ heavy periods and postmenopausal bleeding
Occasional spotting between periods should not set off any alarm bells. If the bleeding
- lasts for several days,
- is heavy or painful, or
- happens if you are post-menopausal,
then don’t wait, and make an appointment to see your OBGYN right away.
A common symptom of fibroids (benign lumps that grow in or on the uterus) is bleeding between periods. Endometriosis may also be a possibility if your periods are heavy or painful.
Bleeding between periods can also be a sign of an injury to the vagina. If you are post-menopausal, it can be a sign of uterine cancer. Whatever the cause, any abnormal bleeding needs to be investigated as soon as possible.
3- Vaginal discharge or discomfort
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) affect women of all ages. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 20 million new STI’s occur every year in the US . STI’s aren’t just a potential threat to your immediate health but to long-term health . It’s thought that undiagnosed STI’s cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year .
Most STI’s present with symptoms of abnormal vaginal discharge or discomfort. Any kind of burning sensation, pain during intercourse, or painful urination also warrants an immediate trip to your OBGYN. Most infections can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics so don’t put it off. It is crucial to get to your OBGYN as soon as possible.
Other causes of abnormal vaginal discharge are
- bacterial or yeast infections,
- side effects of birth control pills,
- cervical cancer, and
4 – Frequent Urinary Infections
If you suffer from frequent urinary infections, don’t ignore it. Urinary infections are common. Many women will have at least one during their lifetime . If you find that you’re constantly getting them despite finishing your antibiotics, drinking lots of cranberry juice, and practicing good hygiene, make an appointment with your OBGYN.
If you have recurring UTI’s your doctor may order specific tests to look for any abnormalities or issues. OBGYN’s tend to have more skill and knowledge in this area than general physicians. Try to make an appointment to see them instead of your regular doctor. They’ll likely be able to help explain the recurring infections.
5- Breast lumps
It goes without saying that if you discover a lump during your monthly breast self-examination (which you should be doing), then you need to see your doctor right away. A lump in the breast does not automatically mean cancer. In fact, most breast lumps are benign, which means they are NOT cancerous .
Fibroadenomas (a benign tumor), cysts or lipomas (a lump in the breast composed of fatty tissue) are common. They usually manifest as a new lump in the breast. For some women, changes in hormones during normal monthly menstrual cycles can create breast changes. Regardless, this symptom is one that should always be checked out immediately.
Your OBGYN is not just an essential part of your healthcare while pregnant. Regular visits with your OBGYN will not only provide needed checkups but is a great time to
- ask questions
- voice concerns, and
- reevaluate your health.
1) Center for Disease Control. CDC fact sheet – Reported STD’s in the United States. October 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/std-trends-508.pdf
2) Al-Badr, A., & Al-Shaikh, G. (2013). Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 13(3), 359–367. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/
3) WebMD. Benign breast lumps. WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 10, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/benign-breast-lumps#1