18 Feb Maintaining Your Cervical Health
As an individual or couple trying to get pregnant, you have a vested interest in maintaining cervical health because a healthy conception and pregnancy depends upon it.
Cervical cancer can be deadly if caught too late, and it’s typically asymptomatic. The combination of a healthy lifestyle, infection prevention, and routine women’s wellness visits with your gynecologist are foundations for cervical health.
5 Tips for a Healthy Cervix
Here are five simple tips to keep your cervix healthy.
1. Observe annual women’s wellness visits with your gynecologist
Your gynecologist is typically your first line of cervical health defense. Cervical health is harder to detect on your own unless you are having specific issues such as discomfort during sex or mysterious pain. S/he’s the most likely to see something is amiss during your annual wellness women’s visit, or to notice if you’re dilating early during your pregnancy, which can lead to miscarriage or preterm labor.
2. Get a pap smear every two to three years (or as recommended)
Pap smears used to be an annual part of the well-woman’s visit. Now, ACOG recommends:
- Women aged 21–29 years should have a Pap test alone every 3 years. HPV testing is not recommended.
- Women aged 30–65 years should have a Pap test and an HPV test (co-testing) every 5 years (preferred). It also is acceptable to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
Your OB/GYN should keep you informed of when you are due, but it’s worth scheduling in your calendar to be proactive. If you get the call that the result came back abnormal, don’t panic. Schedule a follow-up visit ASAP, where your doctor will get a closer look and remove/biopsy any abnormal tissue.
It typically takes between three to seven years for abnormal cervical cells to become cancerous, at which point it’s much harder to treat the condition. Verifying – and correcting – abnormal results prevents that from ever happening.
3. Use a condom if you’re having sex with more than one partner
People assume that trying to get pregnant means you’re monogamous. However, that is not at all the case, and women must protect their cervix by using a condom each time they have sex if they’re in non-monogamous sexual relationships (or suspect their partner might be).
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease out there, and it can lead to infections that make the body more susceptible to developing cervical cancer. If you’ve had HPV in the past, let your physician know. You may opt to have more frequent paps smears since women who’ve had HPV and/or resulting infections have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer as well as higher rates of infertility.
4. Make healthy diet and lifestyle choices
It’s true that HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer. However, there are other risk factors involved, as well. For example, some of the leading factors associated with cervical cancer or infection include:
- Poor nutrition
- A weakened immune system
By eating a healthy, colorful, and well-rounded diet, getting regular exercise, and making other healthy lifestyle choices, you’ll eliminate those factors.
5. Quit smoking
We want to emphasize that smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor. Studies have shown that tobacco and its by-products damage the DNA in cervical cells, making them more prone to abnormalities that lead to cancer. Plus, smoking increases the risk of other infertility factors for both men and women.
Cervical health is essential for conception, full-term pregnancy, and a healthy labor and delivery. Review the above tips and put them into practice.