Many women are uncertain about how often or when they should visit a gynaecologist. It’s very important to stay informed about your reproductive health as there are a number of conditions that can be quite life-threatening if left untreated. Regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant or sexually active, a regular check-up with the gynaecologist is imperative. By screening you for certain conditions, you can receive treatment that will assist in your recovery. Find out more as Bloom , together with their partner, Health4Me, discuss the issue of women’s reproductive health in this specialist focus feature.
What is a gynaecologist?
Gynaecologists are medical doctors who specialise in the health of the female reproductive system and organs, which includes the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. Some gynaecologists also function in the area of obstetrics, which means they provide prenatal care and assist in the delivery of babies.
What does a gynaecologist do?
Gynaecologists are able to screen for certain conditions, diagnose, treat or refer a patient to an appropriate specialist for a number of issues relating to the female reproductive system, some of which are:
- Menstruation problems. This could include issues, like dysmenorrhea, which is painful periods, amenorrhea, which is the absence of one’s period or menorrhagia, which is extremely heavy periods
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like gonorrhoea or chlamydia
- Cancer, relating specifically to the reproductive system, like ovarian or cervical cancer
- Infections, that could be bacterial or fungal in nature
- Hormonal or infertility problems, like menopause
- Pregnancy and family planning, including contraception, sterilisation or even pregnancy termination
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian cysts or fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Issues relating to sexuality and dysfunction
When should you consult a gynaecologist?
A gynaecologist should be consulted if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, which are indicative of a gynaecological problem that needs to be treated:
- You experience pain during or after sexual intercourse
- Your periods are painful or very heavy
- You haven’t had a period in a few months (and you’re not pregnant)
- You are spotting between periods or are bleeding often during the month
- You have constant pain your pelvic region
- You have a vaginal discharge with a strong odour
- You experience a painful discharge after sexual intercourse
- You are due to have a routine pap smear
When do I need to have a pap smear?
A pap smear is a medical health check that screens for cervical cancer and is a test that women should prioritise. It’s recommended that women get a pap smear every three years from the ages of 21 to 65 regardless of whether or not you’re sexually active. Those women who have undergone a complete hysterectomy do not need to have a pap smear.
While a pap smear may be an uncomfortable procedure, it is very quick and can be life-saving as the test can detect abnormal cervical cells before they become precancers. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) confirms that cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer amongst women in South Africa. During the procedure, the gynaecologist will insert a speculum into your vagina and scrap some cells from the outside of your cervix, which will be sent for testing. Your gynaecologist may also conduct an HPV test at the same time as the pap smear, which tests for the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer.
What to expect when you visit the gynaecologist
When you have a gynaecologist appointment it’s advisable to abstain from sexual intercourse for at least 24 hours prior to your consultation as sexual activity could affect the results of your pap smear. Your gynaecologist may start off the exam with a general health check, which means they could weigh you and take your blood pressure. When it comes to the physical exam, you will be asked to undress completely and put on a gown that opens in the front.
You will be required to lie down on an examining table that may have stirrups for your feet. The gynaecologist will first examine the outside of your vagina for abnormalities. Then they will use a speculum to open your vagina and view your cervix. The gynaecologist will remove cells from your cervix with a brush. They will also conduct an internal bimanual exam where they place one or two gloved fingers into your vagina while they rest their other hand on the top of the lower part of your abdomen to feel your cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
If you are sexually active, the gynaecologist may test you for STI’s by taking a swab of tissue during the pelvic exam and by taking blood tests. They may also conduct a breast exam to check for lumps or abnormalities.
How much does it cost to see a private gynaecologist?
A consultation with a private gynaecologist could cost you approximately R2,000, which will vary from between practices.
Will health insurance cover a gynaecologist consultation?
Yes, the Health4Me Gold health insurance plan will cover a consultation with a gynaecologist. This will fall into the specialist benefit. Each member on the plan will be permitted two visits per year, limited to R1,000 per limit. Gold health plan members may also visit a gynaecologist for maternity visits, where they can receive two 2D growth scans or ultrasounds per pregnancy. While the scan will be paid from the maternity benefit, the gynaecologist visit will be paid from the specialist benefit.
What is the procedure to get a gynaecologist appointment?
It’s important to follow the correct procedure in order to qualify for this benefit, which has a three-month waiting period. If you need to see a gynaecologist, you must first book an appointment with a Network GP who will then provide you with a referral to a Momentum CareCross Network gynaecologist specialist. Once you have a referral letter, you will contact us on 0860 10 29 03 to obtain authorisation.
At Bloom, we take women’s health very seriously and encourage you to keep well informed about your reproductive health in 2021. Get regular check-ups from your gynaecologist so that you can get a clean bill of health or obtain the treatment you need to manage a condition or solve a medical problem. Make sure you and your family are properly covered for specialist benefits with affordable, comprehensive health insurance.
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