Preventive Care For Women, Because You Need Taking Care Of, Too
Moms by nature are nurturers, loving, caring…and totally stressed out, running on a lack of sleep, surviving on lots of caffeine, with an innate ability to know what their children’s needs are, while totally forgetting about their own!
I’m sure there are days where you are running on empty, and think to yourself “I cannot get sick, I don’t have time to be sick.” Trust me, as a Healthcare Practitioner, I put my patients before myself, so I can only imagine being a mom to one, two, three…ten kids!
To make it a little easier, I’m going to break it down for you, what you really should be thinking about for preventive care (think that oil change for your car you try to eek it out as far as possible, but it weighs on your mind every time you get in the car) and what you have some time to wait on…
Routine Blood Pressure (BP) and Vital Sign (VS) Screenings: should be done every two years as long as you have “normal” blood pressure (128/80). If your blood pressure is elevated (120-140/80-89) then unfortunately you will have to see the likes of me annually, and if your blood pressure is any higher, you will most likely require treatment and more frequent screening (then you will really be sick of seeing me!)
Routine Physical: You should try to get two full physicals during your 20’s, and if you’ve missed that, don’t worry, just try to get in for a full physical every 1-5 years (if your HCP wants to see you more frequently, they will let you know to come back sooner.) Oh, and no, OBGYN check ups do not take the place of going to see a Primary Care Practitioner!
Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Smear): The good news is that you only need a Pap every 3-5 years unless you have had a previous past +HPV screening, you may need to get swabbed more frequently…and only until age 65. There is a light at the end of that tunnel (or speculum, as the case may be!)
Breast Cancer Screening (Mammogram): Self Breast Exams (SBEs) should be performed monthly (you can always spice it up and have your partner help) and your HCP may want to start earlier based on your family history, but you can usually hold off on mammograms until you are 50 years old and then get them every two years. So as long as you make sure to do your SBEs and feel lump-free, you can hold off on this super comfortable and fun screening for a while!
Osteoporosis Screening (Bone Density Testing): Probably the best news you will hear from me: as long as you don’t have any malabsorption issues (think Chron’s or Celiac disease) you only need to be screened around the age of 50 and if your bone density looks good, you are set! If you need to take supplements, you will be started on a regimen, but most likely it won’t be repeated. Keep up your calcium intake and lifting low weights to adhere calcium to your bones!
Colon Cancer Screening (Colonoscopy): Ah, the dreaded colonoscopy…It is suggested to start screening after age 50 and any further probing will be determined by what they find (someone with polyps or a family history of colon cancer may be screened more frequently than someone with a clear screening.) And do yourself a favor; lay off anything artificially colored red for a few days before because it can make your colon look like it has been bleeding and you want them in and out as soon as possible!
Diabetes Screening: When you a e pregnant, you will most likely be screened for gestational diabetes (maybe without even realizing it) but if you have moderately elevated BP (≥135/80) or if you take BP medications you will be screened annually. I guess the good news is that you should probably get your BP checked annually, so you might as well do it all at once!
Cholesterol Screening: Screening should start in your early 20’s (a simple blood test) and if your levels are normal, routine screening can be performed with every physical. If your cholesterol is high requiring treatment, you will be screened more frequently.
STD & HIV Testing: If you are sexually active and at risk for STDs, the suggested screening schedule is every 6 months. If you are in a monogamous relationship, or not sexually active, you can knock that right off the list (score one for monogamy and self love!)
I know it can still be tough to actually remember to make appointments, so while you are scheduling your kids check ups, put your appointments on the books, too. You might as well make all of those torturous calls at once and have everyone booked for the year. Also, remember the dentist every six months, which you can usually schedule at the same time as the kids… you are getting everything else tunes up, you might as well get those chops cleaned too, right?
Be healthy, take “me” time when you can, love yourself, and try to hit the minimum screenings. You work hard for everyone else –you deserve to feel as good as possible, mama!
This article was originally published on