Back to School Health Basics: A Guide to female health when returning to campus

Now that class is in session, early fall is a great time to focus on gynecological care. A gynecologist is a doctor that specializes in women’s health and reproductive capabilities. Below is a list of the services that gynecologists can provide to college age women returning to school.

Birth control: College is often the time that women begin to take birth control for the first time. Health classes and information that is obtained through commercials and media about birth control fail to present the wide range of birth control options. Birth control pill usage is the most common type of birth control method that women use besides condoms. Most birth control pills are a combination of both estrogen and progesterone and must be taken daily to prevent pregnancy.  For those women to whom oral contraception is contraindicated other longer acting methods such as progesterone injections, intrauterine devices and subdermal implants (Nexplanon) can be used instead. These longer acting methods have greater patient compliance as well as increased protection against pregnancy. Depending on your medical history, your gynecologist can prescribe a birth control method that best addresses your medical needs. 

Menstrual cycle management: Women in their teenage years are known to have significantly more painful and longer lasting menstrual periods then they have at any other point in their life. By taking a detailed patient history and discussing the severity of symptoms a physician can often help a patient achieve a more manageable and less uncomfortable menstrual cycle. Many patients are surprised to learn that their cycles can be significantly improved. Cyclic NSAID usage and hormonal contraception are two methods that assist patients with their uncomfortable menstrual cycles.

Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “By grade 12, more then one half of females report having had sexual intercourse”. Unfortunately, many cases of STI’s are asymptomatic and this makes routine yearly screening absolutely essential for adequate health and maintenance. Bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can present long term health risks if they are allowed to go untreated for large periods of time.  In addition, a gynecologist can discuss with the patient safer sex practices and ways to decrease the spread of STI’s in general.

Vaccinations: The HPV vaccine is one of the most effective vaccinations that is currently offered in the US. Human Papillomavirus is a virus most commonly associated with cervical cancer and with genital warts. The vaccine is offered to men and women from 9 years- 27 years old or younger to prevent the spread of HPV in the vaccinated individual and decrease both rates of cervical cancer and genital warts. The HPV vaccination is recommended to all women regardless of their sexual orientation. The time before a woman goes to college can be an excellent time for an HPV vaccination series. Most gynecologist offices have the HPV vaccines supplied in their office and would be happy to assist you with this.

The fall offers students heading back to campus an opportunity to focus on their gynecological health. Please reach out to your local gynecologist or primary care doctor for more information. 

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