Do I still need to see an OB GYN after menopause?
Once you reach menopause, you may wonder if you still need to visit your OB GYN. Menopause marks the end of your monthly period and childbearing years. However, your OB GYN cares for a wide range of women’s health issues.
From screenings to breast health to complex gynecologic conditions, postmenopausal women greatly benefit from a healthy relationship with an OB GYN. Here are some of the most common conditions women face after menopause and how your OB GYN can help.
Vulvar and vaginal symptoms
Lower estrogen levels after menopause often result in vulvar and vaginal changes. In fact, a survey by the North American Menopause Society showed vulvovaginal issues affect as many as half of women. Common symptoms include pain, itching, dryness, burning, or discharge. And these can also lead to discomfort and painful sex.
If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to visit your OB GYN. Your doctor can offer you treatment options. Most commonly, he or she may suggest vaginal creams, gels, or rings. These options provide a low dose of hormones for symptom relief.
Gynecologic cancer screening and treatment
After menopause, your OB GYN can help you stay on top of cancer prevention. The average age of menopause is 51. However, the Office on Women’s Health says you should have Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer until 65. Also, talk to your OB GYN if you have risk factors for other gynecologic cancers—like uterine or ovarian cancer.
Vaginal bleeding after menopause and pelvic pain also warrant a visit with your doctor. These can be a sign of cancer or another problem. If you are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, look for an OB GYN who is board-certified in gynecologic oncology. This means the OB GYN has special expertise in caring for your cancer.
Breast cancer prevention
From clinical breast exams to mammograms, your OB GYN cares for your breast health before and after menopause. The timing of mammograms varies based on your health. So talk to your doctor about when you should be screened.
Your OB GYN checkup is also a great time to talk about your cancer risk. Women at risk of breast cancer may have to weigh the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with their doctors. The American Society of Clinical Oncology says some studies show HRT increases your risk. Your OB GYN can help you make informed decisions about breast cancer prevention.
Pelvic floor disorders
The National Institutes of Health estimates as many as 1 in 4 women are affected by a pelvic floor disorder. One of the most common pelvic floor disorders after menopause is urinary incontinence. However, leaks when you sneeze or the sudden urge to go aren’t just a part of life. You have several treatment options.
A smaller number of women may have pelvic organ prolapse. This happens when your bowel, uterus, or bladder collapses onto your vagina. In some cases, you may need surgery. If you have a pelvic floor disorder, consider seeking treatment from an OB GYN who is board-certified in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.
Above all, remember that your OB GYN has partnered with you through every stage of life. And he or she is there for this next stage too. No matter what women’s health concern you’re facing after menopause, your OB GYN remains an important part of your healthcare team.