20 Somethings

Most women have their first gynecological exam sometime during adolescence or their early twenties. These early years in your reproductive life are important, and maintaining a relationship with a trusted physician can help you achieve good health for today, and healthy pregnancies for tomorrow. The following topics are of particular interest to younger women. We hope this information will help you prepare for your initial visits.

Your First Pap Smear

The pap smear (or pap test, as it is sometimes called) is a test to screen women for cervical cancer. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recom­mends that most women be screened at age 21. After that, the test is an important part of your annual examination. During the pelvic exam, your doctor will collect a specimen from the cervix which is analyzed for any abnormalities. The collection of cells may cause mild discomfort, somewhat similar to a menstrual cramp. This test allows your physician to detect abnormal changes before they become cancerous, and treat them if necessary. Women who have received the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) should still follow the standard screening schedule.

To ensure that your pap smear is as accurate as possible, schedule your exam when you won't be having your period. Also, refrain from intercourse, douching or using tampons for 48 hours prior to the exam.

You should receive the results of your test in approximately 1 weeks. You'll have a chance to talk with your physician before the exam, and we encourage you to ask any questions or express concerns so that we can help you have an informed, stress-free experience. For more information about ACOG recommendations and this test click here.

Birth Control

Choosing an appropriate and safe method of birth control can be daunting, but your physician at Women's Medical Center can provide you with information about the options available, and instructions for using that method effectively.

Each type of birth control—from oral contraceptives (birth control pills), to injections, to intrauterine devices—has its pros and cons, and no one solution is right for every woman. By assessing your health and talking to you about your family planning objectives, your doctor can help you make the choice that is right for you.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine (Gardasil©)

Most types of cervical cancer and genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is a common sexually transmitted disease that is passed by genital

contact, usually during sex. The Gardasil vaccine has been proven effective for the prevention of many types of HPV. The vaccine is given in three shots over a six-month period, and is recommended in girls and young women age 9-26 who have not previously been vaccinated.

Gardasil doesn't treat existing HPV infections, and doesn't guard against other sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers more infor­mation about the vaccine and its effectiveness here.

A Relationship Built on Trust

Your relationship with the physicians and staff of Women's Medical Center is a vital part of your overall health and well-being. Good communication between you and your doctor is essential to receiving appropriate care, calming anxieties about the unknown, and planning for the future.

Many new patients are hesitant to ask questions for fear of being embarrassed, given the personal nature of obstetrics and gynecology. But you should remember that your doctor has "seen it all" and is a trusted ally who wants what is best for you. Your discussions with your physician are completely confidential, as are your medical records. Women's Medical Center is honored to partner with you in the journey toward good health. We strive to create an environment where patients feel secure and receive the best possible care.