Every woman knows her body goes through tremendous changes over time. From puberty to menopause, your body experiences a variety of shifts that shape who you are. Keeping yourself as healthy as possible during all of it means keeping an eye on your gynecologic health.
While your doctor monitors your health each time you have one of those awesome gynecological exams, there are many things you can do at home. This series of health tips for women addresses specific areas you should focus on, including your breasts, vagina, and uterus. And if you ever have questions or need relief from certain changes to your body, your doctor can help create an effective plan that’s just right for you.
Part of routine gynecological care involves a breast examination. Even though your doctor performs this simple procedure in office, you can do this at home once a month to help catch any lumps early. There are five easy steps to an at-home breast examination, according to BreastCancer.org:
- First, look at your breasts in a mirror while your arms are down by your sides. Make sure they’re their usual size and color and that no redness, dimpling, bulging, swelling, or nipple changes are noticeable.
- Next, raise your arms above your head and look for the same kinds of changes to your breasts.
- Check for any unusual fluid coming out of your nipples.
- Lie down and put one arm behind your head. Using a firm touch, move the finger pads of your opposite hand over your breast on the side where your arm is raised. Move your fingers in a circular motion and cover your entire breast from your armpit to the bottom of your breast. Make sure you cover the whole breast by using a pattern so you won’t miss anything that feels unusual.
- Finally, feel each of your breasts while standing or sitting down. You may want to try this in the shower when your skin is slippery. Feel your breasts in the same way you did while lying down.
You can also monitor the health of your vagina by performing a vaginal self-exam at home. All you need is a mirror and maybe a flashlight.
Sit on the floor or on a chair that supports your back. Spread your legs apart so you can easily see your vagina with the mirror. Then, look at the outer, fleshy part (called the vulva), and the openings to your urethra, vagina, and anus. Notice anything out of the ordinary, including oddly colored discharge, vaginal sores, or genital warts. Talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Monitoring Your Menstrual Cycle
Your menstrual cycle can tell you a lot about ovulation patterns and any problems that could develop as you age. Plus, keeping track of your periods can help you get pregnant while preventing your next period from surprising you and staining your jeans.
Monitoring your menstrual cycle for gynecologic health is easy. Mark the day you start your period on your calendar. After a few months, you’ll notice a pattern and be better able to predict when you’ll start your period. There are many free apps available that help you track your periods too.
You may also want pay attention to specific details about each of your periods. Changes to your flow can be the first sign something may be wrong. You may choose to track the heaviness of your bleeding, any pain you have, how long your periods last, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms (cramping, headaches, bloating).
Keeping Track of Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is the time after you stop having a menstrual cycle. You may already know menopause can cause unpleasant symptoms that interfere with your quality of life. Keeping track of your symptoms can help you know when it’s time to talk to your doctor about treatment options.
The symptoms of menopause can vary from woman to woman, and they can be mild or severe depending on your unique body. They include:
- Hot flashes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood changes
- Intimacy issues
Fortunately, there are treatment options for some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. If you’ve noticed problems being intimate or you have body confidence issues, MonaLisa Touch® therapy might be right for you. This simple procedure helps restore vaginal health so you can feel like yourself again.
It’s easy to follow these health tips for women to monitor your gynecologic health at home, and taking the time to know your body better can help you identify issues early on. And if necessary, your doctor can recommend treatments that can help restore your vaginal health.