Michigan Association of Health Plans

Focus on women’s health: Schedule those routine checkups delayed due to pandemic

Are you one of the millions of Americans who didn’t see a health care professional over the past year because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A report released last fall from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 41% of U.S. adults said they delayed or avoided medical appointments, including routine and preventive care.

McLaren Health Plan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dennis Perry is optimistic that as vaccination rates rise and restrictions are lifted, families can get back to doing more of the normal, everyday things they did before COVID-19. Basic medical checkups and health screenings should be at the top of the to-do list.

Dr. Perry said Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October is a good reminder for people to call their doctor and get back on track.

“Early detection is important – especially for women and expectant mothers,” he said. “Taking time for routine health screenings should be a priority.”

Most health insurance plans cover routine health screenings and maternity and newborn care at no extra cost to patients. Dr. Perry recommends women schedule important health care checkups as soon as possible.

Annual checkup

A good idea is to make this appointment every year around a birthday so it’s easier to remember to do it. The physician will ask questions about family history and previous illnesses. Vital signs will be taken, and eyes, ears, heart and skin will be checked. Ask questions about specific health concerns. Schedule a mammogram, Pap screening or any blood tests that might be needed.

Pap screening for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer can affect any woman who is or has been sexually active. It occurs in women who have had the human papilloma virus or HPV. Many people who are infected have no symptoms. HPV is passed during sex and is most common in women ages 20-24. Chances of getting cervical cancer can be reduced by getting routine Pap screenings and the HPV vaccine. This is a series of two shots given during a six-to-12-month period. Women and girls between the ages of 9 and 26 should consider getting the series of shots.

Get tested for chlamydia

Sexually active women should get tested every year for chlamydia because it’s a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause infertility and harm newborn babies. As both men and women can catch and spread the disease, it’s important for women under age 25 and males ages 16-18 to be tested. Although easily transmissible, it’s also easy to detect and treat. Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms. A doctor can run a simple urine test to detect it. The treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics. Partners also should get tested and treated if necessary.

Breast health

A monthly breast self-examine is recommended. Notify a doctor immediately if any changes are noticed. For general breast health, women should maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol and exercise regularly. All women can get breast cancer, even those with no family history of the disease. There is a higher chance of surviving when the cancer is diagnosed early. Women should get a mammogram every year beginning at age 50.

Prenatal and postpartum care

Timely postpartum care is essential for maximizing maternal and newborn health. An initial prenatal visit should be completed within the first trimester. A postpartum exam should occur within seven to 84 days after delivery.

McLaren Health Plan (MHP) offers additional support to pregnant women through its McLaren Moms program. The program provides access to a nurse case manager and information regarding healthy pregnancies. The nurse case manager can assist high-needs patients, routine postpartum follow-up, education and planning.

For MHP Medicaid members, the Maternal Infant Health Program (MHIP) is available to provide extra help for women who may need it. It pairs pregnant women with a nurse and a social worker to help them connect with medical care, supplies and information.

Dr. Perry reassures that doctors, medical staff and facilities are taking every precaution during the pandemic to ensure patient safety.

“It’s safe to return to your doctor’s office, get health screenings, receive urgent and emergency care or schedule that surgery you may have put off,” he said. “Make those appointments now and reengage with your health.”

This article originally appeared in UP North Live. Read more here