As a woman you need to care for your gynaecological health, no matter what your age. This involves knowledge about normal gynaecological health and when to see your doctor about problems. Regular check-ups, pap smears, choosing the right contraceptive, and safe sex practices are all part of being a confident and healthy woman.
At Westmead Women’s & Newborn Health we have staff with the specialist knowledge to support you in making the right choices for your body. We provide health information fact sheets to assist you in understanding how your body works and how a procedure, or disease, may affect you. We can guide you to the right websites to help you gain more understanding and support. While nothing replaces a conversation with your doctor, midwife or nurse, being able to read and view reliable health information may provide support in your conversations and reassurance about your decisions.
Not all gynaecological conditions respond to lifestyle changes or medications, and you may be advised that you need surgery. Your doctor may suggest that you require repair of your uterus, pelvic floor or other reproductive organs, or removal of your uterus or ovaries. In this situation you will want to know why you need surgery, what will happen during surgery and what to expect while you recover.
Questions about going to hospital, pain relief, bleeding after surgery, plus the future function of your body are just some of the information our fact sheets provide. Talking with your GP and gynaecologist will help you prepare and cope with your planned surgery.
General information about your gynaecological surgery
Treatment of Pap smear abnormalities
The menopause is that time of your life when you no longer have menstrual periods. We say you are post-menopausal when you have not had a period for 12 months. This usually happens between the ages of 48 - 55 years. Many women find that in the five or so years leading up to the menopause their menstrual cycle becomes irregular, they may also experience hot flushes, night sweats and difficulty sleeping. This time of transition (change) is called the perimenopause. The symptoms women have vary from none at all to muscular aches and pains, tiredness, mood changes and problems with concentration. Some women feel saddened by these changes, but many find it is a positive time in their lives when they no longer have to worry about periods and contraception.
There are many non-medical ways you can relieve the discomforts experienced during the peri-menopausal and menopausal time. Visiting your GP to discuss management of your menopause is a helpful place to start.
Screening for cervical cancer changed in 2017 from the pap test to a cervical screening test that checks for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that causes over 99% of cervical cancers. This test is recommended for all women between the ages of 25 and 74 who have ever had sex even if they have been given the HPV vaccine. If your HPV screening test is negative you will need to have it repeated in 5 years. The combination of HPV vaccination and the national screening program has greatly reduced the risk of cervical cancer.
A small number of women may have a positive HPV test and changes on a subsequent pap test (these are pre-cancerous changes, meaning they happen before cancer starts). Our fact sheets provide information about follow up and treatment in this situation. The fact sheets should be read in combination with discussions with your health care professional.
The reassuring news about cancer of the cervix is that it takes over 10 years to develop from a few abnormal cells (pre-cancer) to something serious, giving plenty of time for it to be prevented and, in many cases, a woman’s body takes care of the minor abnormal cells so that they go away by themselves. However, sometimes treatment of abnormal cells is needed with a procedure called a LLETZ, this is a small procedure that can often be done in the clinic.
Period problems are common, with heavy bleeding, missing periods, spotting between periods, and irregular cycles affecting many girls and women at some time. Many of these problems occur only once or twice and then settle, while others may last longer or get worse over time. Sometimes period issues start to interfere with a woman's usual activities. The good news is that period problems are often quite easy to manage, although further investigations and even surgery may occasionally be needed.
Pelvic pain is also quite common. This most frequently happens during periods but some women also experience pain in between their periods or with sexual intercourse. Sometimes the cause of the problem is obvious. However, because there are so many organs and tissues, including the bowel, bladder, nerves and muscles, situated in the pelvis (lower tummy area) near the gynaecological organs (uterus, vagina, ovaries, tubes), finding out what is causing your pain may require further tests. Once the cause of your pain is worked out, treatment choices can be offered and you and your doctor can decide on the best management approach for you.
Uterine fibroids are a common cause of period problems, however they do not always need surgical treatment and can often be managed with medication.
Women may have concerns about what is normal 'down there'. The vagina connects the outside world to the cervix (neck of the womb). The cervix and vagina form the passage through which you bleed when you have a period and where the baby passes during birth. The vulva is the name given to the external genitalia at the opening of the vagina. There is no specific way your vulva should look, like any part of the body, there are variations in colour, size and shape.
Contraception means stopping yourself from getting pregnant. The fact sheets and links provided here will help you make the decision about which contraceptive option is right for you. Choosing your contraception is very important and what is best for you, and your partner, may vary throughout different stages of your lifetime.
Westmead Hospital has an outpatient contraception advice clinic. Please contact the clinic on (02) 8890-6508. No referral is necessary.
The term STI is used to describe infections that are usually spread through sexual contact. STIs are common and most, but not all, are easy to treat. Some STIs cause obvious symptoms like pain or discharge, while others may have no symptoms so that people don’t realise they have an infection unless they have a test to check for it.
Common sexually transmitted infections include chlamydia, genital herpes and genital warts, while less common infections include gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV.
Sexual health checkup - what is it?
Sexual health clinic in Western Sydney
Sexual health counsellor - why should you see one?
For more detailed information about STIs, visit Family Planning NSW
The Pelvic Floor Unit (PFU) in the Women's & Newborn Health Service provides care to women with urinary incontinence (leakage), prolapse and other pelvic floor problems.