Jefferson University Hospitals

Obstetrics & Gynecology

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Jefferson Health Gynecologic Care team is here to answer all of your questions, starting with the frequently asked questions below.

What can I expect during my first appointment?

The first appointment is focused on getting to know you. We’ll review your medical history and background and discuss your overall reproductive health and any questions or concerns you may have. Depending on your unique situation, we may recommend specific exams and/or tests that we will perform during the first visit or schedule for a subsequent visit.

Who will I see if I need a surgical procedure?

Our team performs comprehensive gynecologic surgery so, in the event that you need a surgical procedure, you can continue seeing our team right here at Jefferson Health. We offer in-office procedures, including hysteroscopy, polyp removal and LEEP, that are minimally invasive, require less time and no anesthesia to get you back to your normal life as quickly as possible. Our surgical expertise extends to management of fibroids and ovarian cysts and the most advanced minimally invasive, laparoscopic and robotic surgery techniques. We will closely coordinate any surgical care required, whether an in-office procedure performed by your gynecologist or an OR procedure performed by our team of expert gynecologic surgeons.

How do I know if I have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

Many STIs don’t have obvious symptoms or don’t have symptoms at all. There is no way to definitively know if you have an STI until you get tested. If you are sexually active, an STI test should be performed during your annual visit. If you are experiencing unusual discharge, rashes, burning and/or bumps or sores in your genital area, you should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist right away.

Is birth control medicine only used for birth control?

No, there are many other reasons to use birth control besides preventing pregnancy. Birth control can also help with irregular periods, heavy periods, painful periods, nausea and vomiting with periods, menstrual migraines, PMS/PMDD, acne, endometriosis and ovarian cysts. There are many different options for hormonal medications, and your provider will partner with you to determine the best choice for you.

What is a yeast infection and how can I prevent it?

Normally, your vagina harbors microscopic organisms that keep the vagina naturally acidic and form a barrier against infection. If something happens to change the acidity of the vagina, however, harmful microorganisms may grow out of control, causing vaginitis symptoms, such as itching, irritation, swelling, redness and abnormal discharge.

To prevent yeast infections and other types of vaginitis, you should avoid having any scented products in or near your vagina and avoid douching and bubble baths as these can kill the “good bacteria.” Keep the area around your vagina and vulva clean by washing daily and keeping the area as dry as possible. "Breathable" cotton underwear, or underwear with a cotton crotch, allows moisture to evaporate compared to other fabrics that trap moisture that harbors harmful bacteria. To prevent bacteria from spreading from the bowel and rectum to the vagina, wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.

What is a Pap test (or Pap smear) and do I need one?

A Pap test is used to detect cervical cancer, and is performed in the office during a pelvic exam. We use an instrument called a speculum to look closely at the cervix and take two swabs for testing. Pap tests should start at age 21 and be repeated every 3-5 years. HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, but vaccination does not change the recommendations for Pap tests. You may need more frequent Pap tests if you have a family history of cervical cancer, abnormal Pap tests or cervical dysplasia.

How do I find out if an abnormal Pap smear is linked to cancer?

An abnormal Pap smear indicates that the cells on the outer layer of the cervix have changed in an unusual way. This does NOT mean you have cancer, but precancerous cells may be present.

If your pap smear shows an abnormality, we may suggest you have another diagnostic test called a colposcopy that provides a more specific and reliable indication of precancerous lesions. During a colposcopy, we will apply a mild, vinegar solution to the cervix making any abnormal cells more visible and take a biopsy, a small sample of tissue, from the abnormalities on your cervix to send to the laboratory for testing.

If the lab results show moderate or severe dysplasia, meaning there is abnormal cell growth on the lining of the cervix, you might need to have an additional biopsy performed after a colposcopy to rule out cancer and to remove additional abnormal cells. We may perform either a cone biopsy or LEEP (loop electrocautery excision procedure), depending on which is more appropriate in your case.

What is HPV and should I get the vaccine?

HPV, human papillomavirus, is a very common STI and is associated with many cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine has been tested and proven to help prevent most types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended at the age of 11 or 12, prior to being sexually active, though anyone from ages 9 to 26 can get the vaccine.

I have irregular periods, should I be worried?

Many people experience irregular periods, or abnormal uterine bleeding. You should talk with your gynecologist if you’re experiencing:

  • Bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Unusually heavy periods
  • Unusually long periods that last more than a week
  • Extremely painful periods
  • Suddenly irregular periods
  • More frequent periods that occur more often than every 21 days
  • Less frequent periods that occur less often than every 35 days
  • No period for 90 days

Your gynecologist will determine the cause of your irregular periods and the best treatment plan for you.

 

Why do I have pelvic pain that won’t go away?

Chronic pelvic pain, lasting more than six months, is associated with many different causes in different systems in the body. Endometriosis, which occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, is a common gynecologic cause of pelvic pain, especially during menstruation. We are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis ranging from monitoring to medications to surgery. In addition to gynecologic causes, chronic pelvic pain is commonly caused by conditions impacting your GI, urinary and musculoskeletal systems. We partner with specialists across Jefferson Health to explore all possible sources of your chronic pelvic pain and align on a treatment plan tailored to you.

When is fibroid treatment necessary?

Fibroids are non-cancerous, and most fibroids do not cause any symptoms. For those who do not have symptoms related to their fibroids, we practice expectant management to monitor, but not treat, the asymptomatic fibroids. For those who do have symptoms, we offer several treatment options. The treatment approach will depend on the fibroid size, number and location as well as your age and desire for future pregnancy. We will work with you to align on the best treatment plan for you.

What can I expect during a mammogram?

We recommend annual mammograms starting at age 45 (or as early as 40). During a mammogram, we will ask you to wear a gown and stand next to the low-energy x-ray machine. Two plates slowly come together to compress each breast for a few seconds. You may find the compression of the plates to be uncomfortable or even painful, but each X-ray only takes a few seconds and is the most effective tool for early detection of breast cancer.

Should I use hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be an effective approach to relieve moderate to severe menopause symptoms. However, HRT isn’t right for everyone, and can be associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. Many symptoms of menopause can be alleviated through lifestyle changes and other therapies. Your gynecologist will help you determine the right approach for managing your menopause symptoms based on the severity of your symptoms, your medical and family history, current health status and personal preferences.

More Questions?

Please speak with your provider or call us at 215-955-5000. You can also view additional Frequently Asked Questions about managing your Jefferson Health OBGYN visit.