On Women’s Day 2022, Dr. Shweta Shah noted gynecologist and obstetrician in Mumbai highlights the importance of woman’s health through this article. She emphasizes the necessity of having annual gynaecologicalcheck upsto ensure that they are in the best health conditions. She firmly believes that good health is the only capital a woman has, and the more she invests in it, the better and higher the returns she enjoys.
For more than a decade, Dr. Shweta Shah has been a leading gynaecologist and obstetrician in Mumbai with expertise in IVF and laparoscopic surgeries. She is highly passionate about women’s health and champions their well-being at every possible opportunity. And hence, she suggests that girls and women go for annual gynaecologicalcheck ups.
A gynecologist's screening involves a thorough checkup of the vital parameters of the heart, lungs, thyroid gland, and abdomen. It also includes an examination of the breasts and the pelvic region. In addition, the pelvic exam consists of an external examination of the vulva, while the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries are thoroughly checked using a speculum and gloved hands.
It is necessary to brief the patient about the examination procedure which includes exposure of the private parts. The gynaecologist should gently explain the necessity of the examination and proceed with the same only after the patient consents for the same.
Before we highlight the levels of gynaecological checkups, Dr.Shweta, a leading practising gynaecologist in Malad, Mumbai , believes that the cervical cancer vaccines should be taken before the girl begins her sexual activity as the HPV ( human papilloma virus ) which is a preventable cause of cervical cancer reaches the cervix through sexual intercourse and hence the girl who is vaccinated before the sexual intercourse , has antibodies already present in cervix.
Ideally, all girls in age group of 9-12 years should take the HPV or cervical cancer vaccines ( gradasil , gradasil 9). In case, the dose is missed in these age groups then it can be taken till the age of 26 years. The HPV vaccine schedule states three doses to be taken at intervals of 1 and 6 months after the first dose.
A woman’s body carries the baby, her physical and reproductive health is essential. Hence, there are various levels of gynecological screening done as per the age bracket to which she belongs.
The details of age-wise gynecological screening are as follows –
Girls in the age group of 13 to 15 years need to undergo their first gynecology checkup, which could be scheduled when they experience their first menstrual cycle. Ideally, the girl and her mother should visit a gynaecologist together.
In this consultation, the gynaecologist will explain how the menstrual cycle occurs, how to handle and maintain it, the importance of menstrual hygiene, and how to manage it. The girl can also clear her doubts about menstruation while attempting to establish a health doctor-patient relationship.
Since the girl is apprehensive and has many concerns regarding menstrual cycle, careshould be taken to addressed them adequately. This consultation is all about imparting knowledge on sex education, and importance of HPV vaccination. A good and friendly gynecologist should try to make the girl feel comfortable and encourage her to discuss all her concerns openly.
When the girl turns 18-27 years, it is time for a second phase ofannual gynaecologicalcheckupswhich are likely to be quite extensive. During these screenings, the gynecologist offers contraceptive counseling to guide the woman to choose her birth control preferences and how to use them to prevent unwanted pregnancy while maintaining her reproductive health. A clinical breast exam is also done. However, if there is a history of breast cancer in the woman’s family, the doctor can recommend a mammogram, breast ultrasound, or MRI scan, if essential.
Stating from her experience, Dr. Shweta expresses her concerns on the increasing use of emergency contraceptive medicine, an over the counter medicine which is consumed by young teenage girls. She advises adolescent girls to approach a gynaecologist and understand the likely effects and side-effects of the medicine before consuming them. There is no need for the girls to feel ashamed or guilty when discussing these topics with their gynaecologist.
Apart from routine gynecologist screening, the gynaecologist will suggest a PAP smear test and HPV test. A PAP smear, or a PAP test as it is known, is screening test for cervical cancer.The gynaecologst will rub a soft brush over the cervix and sending the brush to the lab for reporting. The PAP smear procedure is an easy and least invasive procedure. All women in age group of 21-65 years who are sexually active should go fora PAP smear test on outpatient basis under supervision of gynaecologist once every three years..
Testing for HPV virus (especially HPV types 16 and 18) is essential as it ascertains the risk of cervical cancer. HPV virus is also known to cause warts. The HPV virus can lie dormant and get activated anytime; hence it pays to be aware of its presence in the body and seek suitable medication and vaccination.
As she enters the age bracket of 29- 40 years, the time is right to seek advice on premarital and preconception counseling as she is keen to bear children and experience a healthy, happy and safe pregnancy. The gynaecologist will offer advice on how to conceive naturally and seek genetic counseling, if essential.
If the woman is suffering from hypertension or diabetes, the entire approach to conceiving and pregnancy will need more planning. Along with these regular tests, pelvic and breast examinations are also done to detect irregularities.
As the woman grows older and enters into her 40s, she experiences many physical changes, which affect her emotional quotient. The gynecologist guides her through the menopause phase, which is accompanied by hormonal changes while not ruling out the need for thyroid examination, diabetes test, breast examination, and screening for cervical cancer.
Dr. Shweta Shah is a leading gynecologist in Mumbai who believes that Jillian Michaels’s quote, “At the end of the day, your health is your responsibility.” It is time that women take care of their health and teach their daughters to focus on their health above all things and goals in life.