As we approach the end of summer and look ahead to the second part of the year, it is the prime time to start thinking about annual wellness visits. Let's deep dive this important self-care appointment with North Atlanta Ob/Gyn's women's health nurse practitioner, Erin Mabile, MSN, WHNP-BC.
What happens at an annual wellness visit?
Wellness visits are about optimizing health based on an individual’s age, history, and risk factors. This includes recommendations for lifestyle modifications, immunizations, and screening tests. Depending on the stage of life, a gynecologic wellness visit may include conversations about preventing sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention or planning for pregnancy, human papilloma virus immunization, screenings for cervical cancer, orders for breast and colorectal cancer screening, or testing for osteoporosis.
I’ve heard I do not need a Pap smear every year; do I still need to be seen once a year?
Most individuals still need to be seen annually even though cervical cancer screening (the pap smear) is done less frequently. Your provider will let you know if less frequent visits are recommended.
How can I prepare for my wellness visit?
Since the recommendations made during a wellness visit are unique to each patient’s needs, it is helpful to provide a detailed history. Please also bring a list of current medications and knowledge of family history, especially if any first or second-degree relatives have been diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or colon cancers.
Can I still be seen for my annual if I am in the middle of my cycle?
Cervical cancer screening via pap smear cannot be performed if bleeding is heavy. All other components of the wellness visit can be completed during menses, and pap smears can be done if bleeding is light.
What age should I have my first wellness exam?
Cervical cancer screening via pap smear starts at 21 years old. Many young people benefit from having their initial wellness visit much younger. Adolescents do not need to get undressed for wellness appointments unless a specific concern is identified. The visit gives them time to ask questions about their changing bodies or address concerns related to menses. During the conversation the provider may offer education about sexual health, hygiene, preventing sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy prevention.
Do I still need an annual wellness exam if I am menopausal?
Cervical, breast, and colon cancer screening, osteoporosis prevention and screening, and prevention of cardiovascular disease are some of the important health promotion topics addressed during wellness visits after menopause. The provider can also address menopausal symptoms or vaginal dryness and urinary concerns that often worsen in menopause.
I think I may have an infection or STI, is this something that can be checked at my annual wellness visit?
STI screening can absolutely be done at a wellness visit. However, no one with concerning symptoms or a known exposure to an STI should delay the testing. If you are not due for a wellness visit, a gynecologic problem visit should be made ASAP.
Can a nurse practitioner prescribe or refill medications at my wellness checkup?
Yes, while nurse practitioners do not prescribe controlled substances in the state of Georgia, almost all other medications can be prescribed. Similarly, nurse practitioners do not perform surgeries, but they offer almost all other services that are available with a physician. If something is outside the nurse practitioner’s scope of care, a referral will be made to an appropriate physician.
Annual wellness visits are a proactive way to put your health first. Call North Atlanta Ob/Gyn today to schedule your annual.