14. Get a good read--or two.
Getting the right person to read your mammogram is as important as getting a good image. Studies show that practice makes closer to perfect, so ask to have yours read by a radiologist who reads nothing, or almost nothing, but mammograms, Runowicz says. If your films turn up anything out of the ordinary, get a second opinion: Ask for a copy of the films, bring them to your primary care doc or OB/GYN, and ask to have them reviewed by a second radiologist at a different mammography center.
15. Don't wait to exhale.
If it's hot in here and it's you, try a special kind of deep-breathing exercise called paced respiration; studies show it can cool a hot flash in minutes. But you have to practice the technique a few times before you get good enough to lower your thermostat.
Find a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be distracted, and sit comfortably. Breathe from deep inside your abdomen while slowing your breaths to 5 to 6 times a minute (normal is 10 to 15 breaths per minute). Practice breathing in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds to get the timing right. Do this for 15 minutes every day. When you feel a hot flash coming on, try slowing your breathing to help cool off.
16. Relax as they wheel you in.
If you're having gynecologic surgery, pack your portable CD or tape player. Listening to a tape or CD designed for surgery and recovery for 15 minutes before you go under can decrease nausea, vomiting, blood loss, and the time you have to spend in the hospital, says Tracy Gaudet, MD, director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine and coauthor of Consciously Female
. And you can take that easy listening a step further: "Most surgeons and anesthesiologists are very comfortable with patients having headsets on during surgery," she says.
Our top docs recommend these relaxation tapes: Successful Surgery
by Belleruth Naparstek and Successful Surgery and Recovery
by Emmett Miller.
17. Nothing down there for 48 hours before your Pap.
Skip sex, douches, and tampons during the two days preceding your Pap test. All three can abrade the cervix, and that can make it tough for your doc to get a representative sample of cells to check for any precancerous changes, explains Ellen Sheets, MD, vice president of clinical affairs at Cytyc, the company that developed the widely used ThinPrep Pap test.
Though you should bathe the morning of your exam, don't try out a new body wash; it could irritate your ******l area, upset your pH balance, and potentially skew your results. And a strong body-wash scent could cover up problems your doc needs to know about. "You want your doctor to have a look at the reality," says James A. Simon, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC. He needs to see, feel, and smell (yes, smell) for potential problems.
18. Second-guess the home pregnancy test.
Despite claims, most home pregnancy tests can't detect a pregnancy as early as the first day of a missed period. (In one study of 18 different brands, First Response was the only one that was accurate that early.) If your home test results come back negative, retake the test a week later to double-check.
Just can't wait? See a doc for a blood test, which can tell you if you're pregnant the very first day your period was due, says Marian Damewood, MD, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine
19. Stem the flow.
If you have heavy menstrual bleeding, consider higher-dose oral contraceptives. Low-dose pills--those with 20 micrograms (mcg) of estrogen--don't control your period as well as the higher-dose ones, says Minkin.
20. Tell the truth.
Most docs don't automatically test you for STDs. So if you want to protect your fertility (and your life), you have to volunteer the number of partners you've had and how often you've had unprotected sex. The more partners, the more you're at risk for a host of dangerous diseases, such as HIV, genital herpes, hepatitis B, HPV, and chlamydia (untreated, it can cause infertility).
21. Fight off fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are not only painful, but for some women, they can also make it difficult to conceive and can threaten existing pregnancies. One way to ward them off is to lose weight. Fat tissue produces the estrogen that feeds fibroids, so if you're overweight, they're more likely to grow, says Minkin.
22. Don't be sore.
Pain or rawness during intercourse or a burning sensation when you insert a tampon is a sign you may have an often-overlooked condition called vulvar vestibulitis, an inflammation of the skin and glands of the vulva (which includes your labia and clitoris).
"There are women out there thinking that pain with intercourse is just part of living. If it hurts, you need to see a doctor," says Elizabeth Gunther Stewart, MD, director of the vulvo******l service at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Massachusetts. The cause of vulvar vestibulitis isn't known and there is no cure, but once you're diagnosed, your doc can offer a wide variety of pain-relief options.
23. Birth control with baby in mind.
Fertility can return almost immediately after you go off the Pill or patch, but it can take 3 months to a year to come back after using a hormonal IUD, and 10 months or more to rebound after your final Depo-Provera injection. If you're planning to eventually have a baby, talk to your doctor about a plan that gives you maximum protection now and optimal fertility later.
24. Depressed? Check your Pill.
If your mood is crashing, it could be your birth control pills. Depression can be a side effect of the synthetic progestin in oral contraceptives, especially for women with severe premenstrual symptoms, those who've had postpartum depression, or those 35 and older, says Diana Dell, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University. The fix: You can stay on the Pill if you switch to the contraceptives Yasmin or Mircette, which have different progestins and less of a depressive effect.
25. Wristbands for morning sickness.
Strapping on seasickness wristbands such as Sea-Band, which applies acupressure (acupuncture without needles), or Relief Band, which emits gentle electrical signals, could help reduce the nausea, says Suzanne Merrill-Nach, MD, a San Diego OB/GYN. Some of her patients have also had success with this low-cost method: Tape a small, uncooked bean to the wrist pressure-point area with a Band-Aid.
Reprint From Prevention Magazine