Staying on Top of Your Sexual Health at Every Age

Staying healthy isn’t only about exercising, eating right, and getting your annual physical exam. Staying on top of your sexual and reproductive health is equally important. We understand that for some women, this can get confusing as the recommendations aren’t necessarily the same for young, middle-aged and older adults.

Four female teachers sitting on steps at entrance of school

To help steer you along, we’ve created a guide to managing your sexual and reproductive health, incorporating tips from womenshealth.gov and other top sources. And we’ve organized it by decade, so it can serve as a helpful resource now and in the years to come, no matter what your age.

In your twenties

  • Start taking between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day. This is particularly important if you plan to or may get pregnant important, because it provides protection to unborn babies from serious birth defects.
  • Schedule a yearly appointment with a physician or gynecologist who is knowledgeable about sexual and reproductive health.
  • Speak to your physician about birth control options each year.
  • Let your physician know if you plan to get pregnant within the next year.
  • Discuss your family health history with your physician.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Make sure you receive Pap tests and HPV tests at the recommended intervals.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections and speak with your doctor about ways you can protect yourself against them.

In your thirties

  • Continue to take between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
  • See your gynecologist or primary care physician for a yearly appointment to discuss your sexual and reproductive health, being sure to discuss your family health history.
  • Each year, have a conversation with your physician about whether you plan to get pregnant that year or about your birth control options.
  • Ask your physician if you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections, HPV, or get a Pap test.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Speak with your doctor about ways to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections.

In your forties

  • If you haven’t gone through menopause, continue to take between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
  • See your gynecologist or physician for a yearly appointment.
  • Speak to your physician about your family health history, including your cancer risk.
  • If you haven’t gone through menopause, speak with your doctor about birth control options or if you plan to get pregnant within the year.
  • Have a conversation with your gynecologist about perimenopause symptoms and what to expect.
  • Ask your gynecologist about whether you need a mammogram. For women ages 45 to 54, these are recommended yearly by the American Cancer Society.
  • Ask your physician if you need a Pap test, STI testing, and/or HPV testing. Make sure you are getting tested at the recommended intervals.
  • Speak with your doctor about ways you can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • If you are 45 or younger, get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.

In your fifties

  • See your gynecologist or other physician for a yearly appointment and be sure to discuss your family health history.
  • Speak to your doctor about menopause and menopause symptoms.
  • If you still get a menstrual period, talk with your physician about birth control options.
  • Ask your doctor if you need STI testing, and speak with them about ways you can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Continue to get necessary Pap and HPV tests at the recommended intervals.
  • See your doctor for a mammogram every year through age 54, and every other year from that point on (or continue on a yearly schedule).

In your sixties

  • See your gynecologist or physician for a yearly appointment.
  • Make sure you have a mammogram done every other year.
  • When you’re 65 and younger, make sure you’re getting necessary Pap and HPV tests.
  • For women over the age of 65, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health recommends Pap tests only if you’ve never been tested, or if you haven’t been tested at any point since reaching age 60.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary, and talk with your physician about ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Speak to your physician about cancer risk.

In your seventies

  • Get necessary mammograms if you are 74 or younger.
  • Get testing for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary, and talk with your physician about ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Speak to your physician about your cancer risk.

In your eighties and nineties

  • Speak to your doctor about your cancer risk.
  • Get testing for sexually transmitted infections, if necessary.

If you have any concerns about your sexual and reproductive health and want to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, contact Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.

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