When to Schedule a Girl’s First Gynecologist Visit: A Guide for Parents

When Should a Girl See a Gynecologist for the First Time?

Determining the right time for a girl’s initial gynecologist visit is essential for her reproductive health journey. While it may seem daunting, understanding the optimal age and indicators for this visit can ease concerns and ensure comprehensive care from an early age.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises that girls should have their first gynecologic consultation between the ages of 13 and 15. This introductory visit serves as an opportunity to establish a rapport with a gynecologist, address any concerns, and receive education on menstrual health, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s important to note that this initial appointment typically doesn’t involve invasive procedures like pelvic exams unless specific symptoms or issues are present.

However, there are circumstances that may prompt a girl to see a gynecologist before the age of 13. Irregularities in menstrual cycles, concerns about puberty development, or early sexual activity warrant professional medical attention. Girls experiencing any of these situations should seek guidance from a gynecologist to address their needs and receive appropriate care.

During the first gynecologic visit, discussions may encompass the importance of regular pelvic exams and Pap smears, which typically commence around age 21. These screenings are vital for detecting abnormalities early and maintaining optimal reproductive health.

Encouraging open dialogue between girls and their healthcare providers is paramount. By fostering a trusting relationship with a gynecologist early on, girls can feel empowered to discuss their reproductive health concerns and access the support and guidance they need throughout adolescence and beyond. Doctors at Burlington OBGYN Associates routinely consult with young girls as they transition through puberty – helping them gain an understanding of their changing bodies and how to manage menstrual health, contraception, STIs etc. To learn more, check out Burlington OBGYN’s Adolescent Gynecology services.

In summary, prioritizing a girl’s first gynecologist visit is necessary for proactive reproductive health management. By adhering to recommended age guidelines and recognizing signs that prompt early consultations, parents can play a crucial role in ensuring their daughters receive comprehensive care and education from the outset.


Here’s How Often You Should Have a Pap Smear

If you think a Pap smear has to be part of your annual well woman visit every year, think again. Here’s the latest cadence that experts recommend to ensure you stay ahead of cervical cancer.

A Pap smear gives you a powerful way to catch cervical cancer. While rates of this cancer have been declining thanks to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, the American Cancer Society still estimates that more than 13,000 women will get a cervical cancer diagnosis this year. 

Fortunately, the earlier abnormal cells are detected, the less likely cancer can pose a threat to your long-term health. In fact, when doctors catch this cancer and it’s still localized, 91% of women survive past the five-year mark. 

That makes it well worth the hassle of getting a Pap smear on the schedule experts recommend. That doesn’t mean an annual Pap smear, either. Most women can go a few years between cervical cancer screenings.

At Burlington OBGYN Associates, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners recommends a Pap smear schedule tailored to you. Visit us at our office in Burlington, Massachusetts, and we can let you know how frequently you should be getting this screening.

To give you a general idea of the right cadence for you, let’s review the current recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Under 21

If you fall into this age group, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll develop cervical cancer. You don’t need to start getting Pap smears just yet. 

Ages 21–29

You should get your first Pap test around age 21. Our team can help you schedule your initial cervical cancer screening and explain what to expect. While most women don’t look forward to this experience, it shouldn’t be painful and it only takes a few minutes. We work with you to keep you as comfortable as possible.

You should get another Pap smear every three years while you’re in your 20s. 

Ages 30–65

At age 30, we can introduce HPV testing with your Pap smear. When you’re getting both at once — called co-testing — we can extend the gap between your screenings to five years. 

Over 65

At age 65, you’re a candidate to stop getting Pap smears provided that you’ve never had abnormal cervical cells show up in a previous Pap test. Our team can help you determine if it’s safe for you to stop getting this screening. 

When you might need screening more often

All of the above applies if you have an average risk of getting cervical cancer. A heightened risk means you and your care team may be more diligent in your screenings. We generally recommend more frequent Pap smears if:

  • You have a family history of cervical cancer
  • You’ve had an abnormal Pap smear in the past
  • You have a weakened immune system
  • You have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

It’s also a good idea to screen more often if you were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before you were born. DES is a hormone doctors gave to some pregnant women between 1940 and 1971. 

Several factors play into the right cervical cancer screening schedule for you. To find the best cadence to protect yourself — and to get a comfortable, convenient Pap smear when you need one — call Burlington OBGYN Associates or book an appointment online today.


Try These 3 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce the Symptoms of PCOS

If you’re living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), making certain lifestyle changes can improve your symptoms and go a long way toward helping you avoid complications like type 2 diabetes. Here are three strategies that make a big difference.

One in 10 women will deal with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition causes your ovaries to create an excess of hormones – including abnormally high levels of androgens. And that hormonal imbalance can contribute to a wide range of unwelcome physical changes, from acne and irregular periods to obesity and even infertility.

On top of all of that, PCOS can lead to complications like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. If you have PCOS, you may need to be more diligent about maintaining your overall health. Fortunately, certain lifestyle changes can help you limit complications, better manage your PCOS symptoms, and boost your overall health. 

As experts in this condition, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners helps women navigate making these changes and controlling their PCOS. If you think you might have this hormonal imbalance, visit us at Burlington OBGYN Associates in Burlington, Massachusetts, so we can tailor a PCOS management plan to you. 

For most women, that plan includes incorporating these three changes to your lifestyle: 

1. Eating a healthy diet

PCOS can cause insulin resistance, which means your body has a more difficult time converting sugar in your blood into energy for your cells. Modifying the way you eat can help your body function its best while keeping your blood sugar levels balanced. 

A PCOS diet includes lots of:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

It also means steering clear of highly processed foods, excess sugar, red meat, fried foods, saturated fats, refined flour, and white rice.

Our team can help you find a diet that you enjoy so it’s sustainable for you while also moderating your PCOS symptoms. 

2. Getting moving

Exercise can help fend off PCOS complications like obesity while playing a role in your body creating a better balance of hormones. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all adults get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.

The key lies in finding physical activities that you like so that you’ll stick with your exercise routine. That could be a brisk walk, a yoga class, swimming, strength training at your local gym, pickleball, or anything else that gets your muscles moving and your heart pumping. 

3. Maintaining a healthy weight

PCOS often leads to weight gain, and excess weight can lead to more complications. Maintaining a healthy weight ​​helps to treat PCOS and its associated risks because it lowers your blood sugar and androgen levels. Androgens cause symptoms like acne and hair growth in unusual places. 

Fortunately, adopting the first two lifestyle changes — a healthy diet and regular exercise — can go a long way toward helping you accomplish this third lifestyle adjustment. 

For help tackling all of these changes — and managing your PCOS as a whole — call Burlington OBGYN Associates or book an appointment online today.


Understanding the Transition From Perimenopause to Menopause

You won’t know you’ve moved from perimenopause into menopause for 12 months. Learn why this transition takes so long as well as the variety of options available to help you manage the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

Despite the fact that every woman who lives to a certain age will experience it, menopause is often misunderstood. Some women think that on a specific day, they’ll wake up and be in menopause.

To an extent, that’s true. But the transition from perimenopause — the period before you medically enter menopause — and menopause itself is a lot slower than many women realize. 

At Burlington OBGYN Associates, we want to help women know what to expect in this important season of life. As menopause management specialists, we have extensive experience helping women navigate the changes they experience as they move from perimenopause to menopause. 

In fact, if you have any questions at all about this major transition, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners can help. Schedule a visit at our Burlington, Massachusetts, office to get the answers and guidance you need, along with treatment to ease the sometimes unpleasant symptoms that accompany this change. 

To help you better understand when a woman officially leaves perimenopause and transitions into menopause, it’s first helpful to look at perimenopause itself. So we’ll start there.

Perimenopause 101

Also called premenopause, perimenopause is a blanket term used to describe all of the changes women experience as they near the end of their reproductive years. Most women start noticing these bodily adjustments in their 40s, although some women enter perimenopause as early as their mid-30s. 

During perimenopause, your estrogen levels fluctuate more than they have before. You might notice resulting symptoms like:

  • A shorter or longer menstrual cycle
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood changes
  • Reduced sex drive

Most women spend a few years in perimenopause, although this period can be as short as a few months or as long as a decade. 

From perimenopause to menopause

You don’t simply get a menopause diagnosis one day. Instead, menopause is the medical term used to describe the life phase that begins 12 months after your last menstrual period.

You might go months without a period and think you’re in menopause. But once you bleed again, the clock resets. You don’t officially reach menopause until you’ve gone a full year without a period. 

This makes the transition from perimenopause to menopause particularly hazy. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit idly by as unwelcome symptoms creep into your life. Our Burlington OBGYN team offers a variety of options to manage the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, including:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Topical estrogen creams
  • Lubricant gels
  • Antidepressants
  • Nutritional guidance for a healthy diet
  • Tips for getting regular exercise
  • Stress management

We tailor your menopause management plan to you, and you don’t have to wait until you’ve had a year without periods before you take action. You can start all of these treatments — including HRT — in perimenopause. If you’re experiencing unwelcome changes, talk to our team. 

To explore your options to treat unwelcome symptoms so you enjoy a better quality of life through perimenopause, menopause, and beyond, call Burlington OBGYN Associates or book an appointment online today.


Never in the Mood? It May Be Time for Hormone Replacement Therapy

If you’ve noticed a drop in your libido, hormone replacement therapy could be the tool you need to bring into the bedroom. Learn how this common treatment can improve arousal and satisfaction during sex.

Most people expect to see their libido drop as they get older. For a lot of women, this decline begins in their late 40s or early 50s

All too often, though, people dismiss their lowered sex drive as normal and don’t do anything about it. But that can impact your relationship, and it means missing out on the health benefits of sex. You don’t have to let this part of your life slip away as you get older. 

Our team at Burlington OBGYN Associates believes that your sexual health is a key part of your overall wellness. Here at our office in Burlington, Massachusetts, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners offers hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help. 

As part of an overall menopause management program, HRT can help address many of the ways aging negatively impacts your sex life, from lowered libido to decreased lubrication. 

Hormones and your sex drive

To help you understand why HRT might help your libido, it can help to give a quick overview of your sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

You need all of these hormones to work the way they should in order to feel sexual desire. And these hormones don’t just matter for your initial arousal. They also play a role in how you experience sex, including your ability to orgasm. 

What hormone replacement therapy can do for libido

Because hormones play a big role in your sex drive, their decreasing levels during and after menopause can spell trouble. Fortunately, experts have found a way to increase key hormones with HRT. Not only does this help with symptoms like hot flashes and sleep issues, but it can also boost your libido. 

Here at Burlington OBGYN Associates, we figure out an HRT plan just for you. Some women benefit from an HRT plan that increases both estrogen and progesterone levels, while others choose estrogen alone. 

We can also recommend topical estrogen creams to help with issues like dryness and discomfort during sex. 

As part of your menopause management plan — and a way to help you improve your libido — we can also work with you to adopt other habits that can help you feel your best. Those include eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress. 

If you’re never in the mood, don’t hesitate to talk to our all-female team. We can help you decide if hormone replacement therapy is right for you or if we should explore other treatment options. To get started, call Burlington OBGYN Associates or book an appointment online today.


All About Gestational Diabetes: Warning Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

Pregnancy changes your body in a number of ways, including opening you up to new health conditions. For example, pregnancy hormones can make insulin less effective, increasing your risk of gestational diabetes.

Some of the changes you experience during pregnancy get a lot of public discussion, like morning sickness. Others are lesser known but more serious to address. Those include gestational diabetes, or diabetes that develops as a direct result of your pregnancy. 

Fortunately, here at Burlington OBGYN Associates in Burlington, Massachusetts, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners can help you watch out for this condition by testing for it at our on-site lab as part of your prenatal care. And if you do develop gestational diabetes, we can help you manage it.

Warning signs of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops when your body stops using insulin efficiently. Your body needs insulin to convert blood sugar into energy for your cells. The hormonal changes you experience while you’re pregnant can get in the way of your body’s insulin usage, which can cause sugar to build up in your blood. 

Unfortunately, gestational diabetes usually doesn’t cause obvious symptoms. Plus, some of the symptoms of this condition — like more frequent urination — are also known side effects of pregnancy in general.

There is one telltale warning sign you can watch out for, though. If you have notably increased thirst, talk with our team. 

Treating this condition

Because gestational diabetes usually doesn’t cause symptoms, we regularly screen for it throughout your pregnancy. If we discover that your blood sugar levels are elevated, we work with you to manage them. 

In most cases, treating gestational diabetes means making certain lifestyle changes while continuing to monitor your blood sugar levels. With a healthy diet and more frequent exercise, most women can keep their blood sugar at safe levels for themselves and their babies. 

During your pregnancy, exercise should be moderate. About 30 minutes a day of brisk walking, yoga, swimming, and other pregnancy-safe exercises are ideal.  

Our Burlington OBGYN Associates team can develop a nutrition and exercise plan for you to follow to minimize the risk of complications if you develop gestational diabetes. 

Preventing diabetes before and during pregnancy

Avoiding this condition starts before you get pregnant. You’re much less likely to develop gestational diabetes if you’re at a healthy weight, eating nutritiously, and exercising regularly going into your pregnancy.

Once you’re pregnant, two things — you guessed it: a healthy diet and regular exercise — go a long way toward preventing high blood sugar levels. Try to eat lots of produce, fiber, and whole foods while steering clear of excess fat and salt. 

We can also help you keep tabs on your weight gain. You do need to gain weight for a healthy pregnancy, but gaining too much too fast spikes your risk for gestational diabetes. 

We’re here to provide exceptional obstetric care. To get screened for this condition throughout your pregnancy and to put a treatment plan in place if you need one, Call Burlington OBGYN Associates or book an appointment online today.


When Should My Daughter Have Her First Gynecologic Visit?

Your daughter’s 13th birthday marks the start of a new season of life — one during which she should get regular gynecological care. Here’s what to know about that first appointment and when you should schedule it.

Watching your children become adolescents probably raises a lot of emotions in you. You might feel proud as you see them grow and become their own unique person. You might also feel worried that it’s getting more difficult to protect them.

If you have a daughter, though, she has access to a greater level of protection as she enters her teenage years. That marks the time to start gynecological care, which can safeguard her against a wide range of health concerns. 

Our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners welcomes you for that first appointment at Burlington OBGYN Associates. As specialists in adolescent gynecology, we know how to help your daughter feel as comfortable as possible at that visit — and how to use it to the biggest health advantage for her. 

So, when should she have her first gynecologic visit? Here’s what you should know.

When to make that first appointment

That 13th birthday doesn’t just mark your daughter’s transition from the pre-teen years. It also means you should start thinking about making her first gynecologic appointment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that teen girls first see a gynecologist sometime between the ages of 13 and 15. 

Because most girls start their period around age 12, early teen gynecological care means they have a doctor involved if they experience issues like painful or heavy periods. It also means that your daughter can start building a relationship with her gynecologist. 

This helps her feel comfortable so she can ask her doctor questions about her body as it changes through adolescence. 

What to expect

We strive to make your daughter’s first gynecologic appointment as comfortable as possible. One of our friendly specialists completes her physical exam and talks with her about any questions she may have. 

If your teen daughter is worried about a Pap smear, you can put her mind at ease. Unless early screening is recommended — for example, if you have a family history of cervical cancer — the ACOG doesn’t recommend starting routine Pap tests until age 21.

We tailor your daughter’s care specifically to her through the years. We can provide vaccines to defend against common health risks, partner with her on nutrition education and healthy weight management, provide birth control prescriptions and STD testing when she becomes sexually active, and so much more. 

To schedule your daughter’s first gynecologic appointment, call Burlington OBGYN Associates at our office in Burlington, Massachusetts, or book an appointment online today.


3 Reasons to Schedule Your Next Mammogram ASAP

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we want to highlight some key benefits of getting regular mammograms. Here are three reasons to book your appointment as soon as possible.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when organizations around the country call attention to this major health concern. It’s a critical time to raise awareness and to take action. 

And because more than 700 US women get diagnosed with breast cancer every day, there’s no time like the present to get up to speed on this condition. 

That ranges from understanding the treatment options for breast cancer — and the good news is that several treatments are available, and they’re usually highly effective with a timely breast cancer diagnosis — to preventive measures and screenings.

Here at Burlington OBGYN Associates, we can help with that. Our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners offers mammography at our office in Burlington, Massachusetts, and we want you to understand that a routine screening mammogram could save your life.

If you’re over 40, it might be time to start getting this screening on a yearly basis. And if you’re overdue or you’ve been putting it off, let’s look at three reasons to schedule your mammogram ASAP.

Breast cancer is common

It tops the list in terms of cancer cases in the United States. While breast cancer does occur in men, it’s far more common in women. The National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 300,000 women will be diagnosed with this kind of cancer before the end of 2023. 

Ultimately, you have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer at some point in your life. Routine mammograms give you a way to monitor your body and catch breast cancer as soon as possible if it does develop.  

Breast cancer is very treatable when it’s caught early

While the number of cases of breast cancer is high, the death rate isn’t. When your doctors detect breast cancer early, your survival odds go way up. In fact, when breast cancer is caught in Stage 1, women have a 98%–100% survival rate after five years. Even when detected at Stage 2, that rate is 90%–99%. 

Routine mammography helps ensure that you and your doctors can get on top of cancer when it’s in its earlier stages. This dramatically increases your odds of living a long, healthy life after diagnosis. 

Mammograms are more effective than ever

Mammography technology has evolved. Rather than the 2D mammograms of the past, our team uses 3D digital mammography to see your breast tissue from more angles. We also leverage computer-aided detection technology in the process.

As a result, the mammogram you get in 2023 is more accurate and less likely to give you a false positive than mammograms of the past. This is an increasingly sophisticated tool designed to help protect your long-term health. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a great reminder to schedule a breast cancer screening if you’re due for one. To set up your mammogram, call our office or book your appointment online today.


Tips for Staying Healthy During Menopause

Menopause doesn’t have to turn your life upside down. With these tips and personalized menopause management care, you can stay healthy and well during this transitional period.

It takes a year from your last period before you reach menopause, and there’s also the drawn-out process of perimenopause and postmenopause. All told, most women go through several years of largely unwelcome changes as their reproductive cycle comes to an end.

But you don’t have to just suffer through hot flashes and mood changes or brace yourself for potential long-term health issues like osteoporosis. As experts in menopause management, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners works to help women thrive during menopause and beyond. 

If you’re perimenopausal, in menopause, or figuring out life after this transition, visit Burlington OBGYN Associates in Burlington, Massachusetts. We can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms, personalizing a whole-body menopause management plan for you. 

These are our top tips for staying healthy during this time.

Explore hormone replacement therapy

This option can help you weather menopause with fewer symptoms. That’s because hormone replacement therapy (HRT) replenishes hormones as your body’s production of them naturally slows down. 

By preventing the steep and sudden dropoff of key hormones like estrogen, we can help you keep symptoms — from sleep problems to hot flashes and mood swings to vaginal dryness — at bay. 

We personalize HRT to your specific hormone levels. Talk with your Burlington OBGYN Associates provider about this option and whether it might be right for you. 

Take care of your body

Menopause isn’t a time to let your healthy habits slide. In fact, during this season of your life, the National Institute on Aging specifically recommends:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting enough vitamin D and calcium to support bone health
  • Getting or staying physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding tobacco products

With these healthy lifestyle choices, you support your wellness during a time when your body can really use the help. 

You might want to implement some new routines, too, to maintain your sexual health and overall health. Using lubricant gels can help you take care of your body by preventing painful sex, for example. And periodic bone density scans give you a way to proactively prevent problems like osteoporosis. 

Take care of your mind, too

Menopause doesn’t just affect you physically. It also impacts your mental wellness. Many women experience anxiety and depression during this season of life. 

Talk with our team about any mental health changes you notice. With options from stress management techniques to antidepressants, we can help you address unwelcome mental changes. We can also work with you to make lifestyle adjustments — like ways to get better sleep — that support your mental well-being.

You don’t have to let menopause take a heavy toll on your physical or mental health. For personalized menopause management care, call our office or book your appointment online today.


My Pap Smear Is Abnormal — Now What?

Learning that the results from your Pap smear showed abnormal cell growth can seem pretty scary. Here, we help you understand what this test result means and explain your next steps.

You likely know that you should periodically get a Pap smear — a gynecological screening that checks your cervix for unusual cell growth. Getting this testing done on the timeline your doctor recommends (every 3-5 years, for most women) means catching any potentially cancerous cell growth before it poses a serious risk to your overall health.

In other words, routine Pap smears are a critical tool to prevent fatal cervical cancer. In fact, this testing is now so commonplace that most women don’t give it a second thought.

At least, that’s the case until the results come back as “unclear” or “abnormal,” meaning the testing may have found something. If you get a call and learn your Pap smear is abnormal, you might feel scared or unsure of what to do next. 

We want to help. At Burlington OBGYN Associates in Burlington, Massachusetts, our all-female team of doctors and nurse practitioners doesn’t just offer Pap smears. We also help you navigate the results. 

What an abnormal result means

If your Pap smear returns abnormal results, it means the sampling of cells we took shows some unusual changes. 

Those changes could indicate the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), which increases your risk for cervical cancer. In extreme cases, they could show that you have cervical cancer — but this shouldn’t happen if you’re getting Pap tests regularly. 

When you have an abnormal Pap smear, we grade the results from mild to severe. That determines what happens next. 

Next steps with mild abnormality

If you have mild cellular changes, it could mean you have an HPV infection. As a result, we might order an HPV test or wait a few months and perform another Pap test. This gives your body time to heal the infection. If your follow-up Pap smear doesn’t show any additional abnormal cell growth, you can relax.

Moving forward, we may recommend more frequent Pap smears to ensure that we catch any further unusual cell growth early. 

Next steps with moderate to severe abnormal cell changes

If we see a significant amount of cellular change in your Pap smear results, we usually recommend a diagnostic procedure known as a colposcopy. We use a speculum just like during a Pap smear, and then we use a lighted magnifying device (the colposcope) to examine the tissue in your cervix. 

We perform your colposcopy right here at our office, and it should take only 5-10 minutes. 

If we find any abnormal cell growth during your colposcopy, we perform a cervical biopsy. This means we take a small tissue sample so we can send it to the lab for further analysis. Your cervical biopsy is minimally invasive and doesn’t require any downtime afterward. We can offer local anesthetic to keep you comfortable, too. 

With a colposcopy and potentially a cervical biopsy, we can figure out what’s going on in your cervix. This way, we can tailor treatment to help you protect your cervical health and your overall health.

We pride ourselves on exceptional, compassionate care. If you’ve had an abnormal Pap smear — or you’re due for your next Pap — call our office or book your appointment online today.