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Women have special health needs throughout life

Even when feeling well, women have good reasons to see their medical provider regularly, especially during their child-bearing years.

One key question might come up at your annual visit: “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” Whatever your answer, your provider can help you with your goal.

If you do become pregnant, early and regular prenatal care is important.

And later in life, it’s time to discuss mammogram frequency with your provider. 

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

One key question

Whether or not you would like to become pregnant in any given year, you have choices to make. If you are planning a baby, or are not on birth control, it is important that you take certain steps:

  • Stop using alcohol and tobacco because these can affect your baby’s health.
  • Start taking vitamins, like folic acid, which wards off birth defects.
  • Catch up on your shots, like a measles-mumps-rubella booster.

“Starting care before a woman becomes pregnant is a great first step to ensure a healthy pregnancy,” says Kim McQuoid, a certified nurse midwife with La Clinica, part of the Jackson Care Connect provider network.

If you are planning to have a baby, avoiding pregnancy or trying to overcome barriers to getting pregnant, your medical provider can guide you.

If you would like to avoid getting pregnant for a time, you can get advice on the risks and benefits of birth control methods. Some women like the ease of an IUD or implants. There are long-term methods that can be reversed and you do not have to remember to take a pill every day. IUDs and Implants are extremely effective forms of birth control. Other women prefer methods like a daily pill or weekly patch.

“Planned pregnancies are wanted pregnancies,” says Dr. Linda Harris, obstetrician and gynecologist with La Clinica. “Giving women control over timing of pregnancies with effective birth control is one of the most important, valuable services we provide.”

Timely prenatal care

If a woman doesn’t already have a regular medical provider, finding one early in pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and baby. A trusting relationship with your provider goes a long way toward a comfortable pregnancy. And already being a patient assures you’ll get care when you need it. 

“Early and consistent prenatal care further improves the health of both mothers and babies. It provides education, support and early recognition of problems. For example, early care of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, both before and during pregnancy, can reduce risks in pregnancy,” says McQuoid.

Some important health services you should get while pregnant include:

  • Making sure you are on the right vitamins and that you have a healthy diet
  • Checking your medication list to make sure it is safe
  • Diabetes screening
  • Whooping cough vaccine toward the end of your pregnancy to protect your baby
  • Dental care, because some women develop gum disease while pregnant. Getting teeth cleaned is safe for mother and baby, and helps prevent problems.
  • A flu shot if it is flu season

Breast cancer screening

Women who are 50 to 74 years old are recommended for mammograms every other year. Research shows this age group gets the greatest benefit from screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 80 percent of invasive breast cancer, and nearly all breast cancer deaths, are in women older than 50.

“Mammograms save lives. The good news is that we now can safely do them less frequently and still decrease risks. For average-risk women, this means starting mammograms at age 50 and doing them every 2 years,” says Dr. Harris.

Some women may delay screening, even though the process now just takes minutes, and staff minimizes discomfort. With more than a quarter-million cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed every year, putting off your screening is not worth the risk.

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