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By Brenda Porter-Rockwell
What’s new in women’s health? The advice given to young girls.
In an afternoon health chat, “From Puberty to Menopause: A Look at What’s Important in Women’s Health,” sponsored by Johnston UNC Health Care last month, Jodi Bailey, an OB-GYN with Triangle Premiere Women’s Health, recommended to parents they introduce their tween and teen girls to their first OB-GYN around age 13.
That comment could be a bit alarming at first, but then Bailey followed up.
“It’s about building a relationship with us,” said Bailey, who practices in both Clayton and Smithfield. “We want to establish that relationship now in case of problems later on. That way, they always feel comfortable talking to a professional.”
These days, OB/GYNs are trying to hold off on that first Pap smear, if at all possible, Bailey said. After all, between the stirrups and the speculum, the exam is an unnerving experience. During the first exam, which should be more of a get-to-know-you session, Bailey said she works on establishing a health history and performing a general physical exam.
But if the teenager is sexually active, Bailey said she wants to collect laboratory samples. If the Pap smear causes too much unrest, advances in testing procedures allow the patient to collect the samples themselves, she said.
Then, “I send mom out of the room and sit down with my patient. I say, ‘Hey. Tell me what’s going on with you.'” said Bailey. “I even talk about alcohol and tobacco use, texting and driving and seatbelts.”
Baily said she would recommend contraception, not to advocate sexual activity, but as a preventive measure for sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
“Long term, contraception takes the guesswork out of their hands and puts it into the hands of a professional,” she said. She also recommends immunizations against diseases like HPV.
The college years and beyond
Between the ages of 18 and 20, young women make a lot of big decisions; most importantly, they start making informed health choices on their own.
From careers to kids, Bailey said, she continues to update health histories, perform exams (no longer optional) and collect labs. But as patients age, the focus shifts to bigger procedures like breast exams and colorectal screenings.
By age 50, Bailey said she starts talking about advanced medical directives. When menopause hits, she suggests skipping popular dietary supplements like soy and black cohosh and consider hormone-replacement therapy. Then when retirement age rolls around, it’s time for bone density screenings, among other tests and vaccines.