Preparing for college can be an exciting, yet stressful time for a fledgling coed. From coordinating housing and choosing classes to adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle, it can even be overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s easy for new students to neglect some of the most vital aspects of their health and well-being during this time. That’s why we created our Off to College blog series. Our goal is to help new college students better prepare for a happy and healthy college experience. In the first Off to College post, we discussed our top tips for personal safety at college. In this, our second post of the series, we turn the focus to female health. Continue reading for tips on how to prioritize your reproductive health as you transition into your freshman year.
Schedule a female health visit before leaving town.
It’s recommended that women have their first gynecological visit between the ages of 15 and 18. Ideally, all women should have had a GYN visit by the time they start college and their first GYN exam by age 21.
So, before heading off, be sure to schedule a routine well-woman visit with a local gynecologist. This will help ensure you are healthy and give you peace of mind knowing your annual check-up is complete. Additionally, the visit may serve as your pre-participation physical exam, which most universities now require for incoming students. Check with your college admissions department to see if it qualifies.
Get familiar with your university’s female health services.
By now, you know the GYN relationship is vital in most of life’s many stages. However, a doctor’s guidance is often particularly significant during this period in a woman’s life. College coeds are often faced with many firsts—some unfamiliar and others closely personal. Thankfully, a GYN can serve as a helpful resource and confidante during this time. So, it’s important to start building a strong rapport with your GYN as soon as possible.
Also, keep in mind most colleges now offer onsite health services, including gynecologic care. So, be sure to familiarize yourself with the clinics and health services available at your university. And don’t forget you can always call your home GYN to ask questions or schedule a visit during school break.
Know when to call the GYN.
As we’ve discussed, a GYN can help with much more than routine check-ups and contraception. But what else might warrant a call to the gynecologist? Here are just a few examples of situations in which you should definitely give your GYN a ring:
- Abnormal or heavy vaginal discharge that itches, burns, has an odor or causes discomfort
- Heavy vaginal bleeding, missed periods, or irregular menstrual cycles
- Bleeding between periods (spotting or breakthrough bleeding)
- Painful intercourse
- Menstrual cramps that cause you to miss school or work
- Any signs of pregnancy
- Side effects or problems from your birth control method
- Breast pain, lump, or discharge from the nipple
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms
Trust your GYN.
Lastly, the patient-GYN relationship is sacred. For your gynecologist, there is virtually no topic involving your health and well-being that is off-limits. Furthermore, remember that anything you discuss with them about birth control, sex, STDs, pregnancy, or anything else is private and confidential. So, trust your GYN. They are there to help you – not to judge you.
To sum it up.
In closing, as you prepare to enter your freshman year, don’t forget to make your female health a priority. That means the gynecologist should be a constant in your life from now on. Soon, you will likely encounter new, and potentially challenging, and stressful experiences. As you embark on this journey, remember that your GYN is there for you. They are there to help guide and empower you to prioritize your health as you travel through life.
For more tips on how to make the most of your college experience, check out our Off to College: Tips for Women Entering University. For more on how we can help take care of your gynecologic health in preparation for college, check out the 20s and 30s section of our How GYNs Can Help at Any Stage of Life post.
Caring for women at all stages of life is what HaneyGYN is all about. Whether you’re the parent of a teen who needs gynecology care or in need of care yourself, Dr. Haney is here to help. We take the time to truly get to know you and understand your unique needs to provide personalized, effective care. Learn more about our practice by contacting us today.
HaneyGYN is a female-led, private gynecology practice led by Dr. Katherine Haney. Dr. Haney’s goal is to guide women in good health care through any stage of life. To learn more about our practice, please contact us today.