Moms are busy people. With the continued upheaval of the pandemic, it’s easy to put wellness on the back burner. Why go to the doctor if you’re not feeling sick, right? But if you have a family relying on you, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy.
Mother’s Day on May 9 is followed by National Women’s Health Week. In 1908, Anna Jarvis launched a nationwide campaign for observance of Mother’s Day to honor her late mother, a community health advocate. More than 100 years later, the history of Mother’s Day is a reminder that we should not only celebrate with gifts and cards, but also with meaningful conversations to remind the women in our lives to make their health a priority and take care of themselves.
Women have unique health needs. It’s important to see a healthcare provider once a year for a Women’s Wellness Exam. Some women prefer to see female providers for this exam. Axis Health System’s staff includes an experienced team of female providers in La Plata, Montezuma and Archuleta counties. New patients can often be scheduled in less than two weeks.
“The annual check-in gives the patient opportunity to be proactive in her health through screening, to complete a gynecological exam, and get to know to her health care team,” said Justine Smith, a Nurse Practitioner at Cortez Integrated Healthcare.
Knowing what to expect during your appointment can make the experience easier and more comfortable. Here’s what’s included in the exam:
- Medical history– The exam will include a conversation with your provider regarding your medical history. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire with information about your personal and family history. We will also discuss your reproductive health needs and desires, your age-appropriate health screening test, and treatments. You will also be asked about your prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Physical exam and pelvic exam– The visit will include a pelvic exam when appropriate, physical exam and a conversation with your healthcare provider about recommended screening tests. During a pelvic exam, your provider will check your pelvic organs, looking and feeling for any abnormalities. The earlier abnormalities are detected, the easier they are to treat.
- Immunizations– Your provider will make the appropriate recommendations for immunizations based on your age and medical history, including the HPV vaccine, flu shots or the shingles vaccine. If you would like to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, visit our resources page and sign up on our online scheduling form.
- Bloodwork– Your doctor may recommend bloodwork to check things such as cholesterol and thyroid functioning. Often these tests come back normal. Establishing a baseline of what is normal for your body will help identify if there is a problem in the future.
- Disease screening– One of the main objectives of this exam is to screen for certain diseases. Some screenings, such as diagnostic tests, can take place during your exam. Others may require a referral specialist. Your provider will make recommendations based on your age and health history. In Montezuma County, Axis Health System will soon begin offering Women’s Wellness Connection (WWC) services at Cortez Integrated Healthcare. The program offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings to women ages 20 to 64 who are underinsured or uninsured. This program is well-established at Dove Creek Integrated Healthcare.
- Disease prevention – Your provider will also discuss disease prevention, including managing hypertension. Cortez Integrated Healthcare will soon launch a program to promote awareness and treatment of hypertension through the National Hypertension Control Initiative. Patients will receive support, education and tools to manage this condition and prevent health problems.
- Reproductive care– Some women want to have a large family, while others do not plan on having children. Part of a Women’s Wellness Exam involves discussing your reproductive plans. Depending on your plans, your provider may recommend birth control options, or discuss how you can prepare for pregnancy. Axis Health System offers a Sexual Health & Family Planning program in La Plata and Archuleta counties. It provides confidential services for birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling, annual exams and STD/STI testing and treatment. Our staff will work with you on adjusting the cost so it is affordable for you; and for some people the services will be provided at no cost.
- Counseling– An annual visit does not just check your physical health, but also your mental health, emotional well-being and safety. During your visit, your provider may ask if you would like to meet with a therapist on the care team. Axis Health System clinics provide integrated healthcare. This means you have a team of therapists, medical providers and dental hygienists all working with you to help you get well and stay well. This is the benefit of a medical home, where all your health needs are met under one roof.
Some women skip preventive care because they worry about the cost. However, many health insurance providers cover the Women’s Wellness Exam. Axis Health System clinics accept Medicaid and Medicare and offers a sliding-fee scale for those who qualify.
Choosing a primary care provider is an important first step to establish a trusting relationship and starting a routine for an annual checkup. Research has shown that patients who have good relationships with their healthcare providers tend to be more satisfied with their care and experience better health results. A review of provider bios may help you choose a provider who meets your unique needs. The following Axis Health System providers are accepting new patients:
Women’s Wellness on Chamber Chat
To learn more about Women’s Wellness during National Women’s Health Week. Listen to the “Chamber Chat” Four Corners Broadcasting recording featuring Dr. Luke Casias, Chief Medical Officer of Axis Health System and Jack Llewellyn, Durango Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. Listen to the live or recorded version here