But with new government and professional regulations emerging yearly about how frequently women should get Paps or mammograms, many gynos have started following their own set of rules.
Here's what you should know about when to listen to your M.D. and when to go rogue...
When should you start getting mammograms?
The rule: Start mammograms at age 40, according to BreastScreen Australia.
The real deal: Even major medical organisations disagree about the age you should begin screening, so make the choice of when to start (typically between 40 and 50) with your doc. She'll consider risk factors like family history and breast density to help you create a game plan.
If you're on antibiotics, should you double up on birth control?
The rule: If you're prescribed an antibiotic, double up on birth control.
The real deal: Most of the standard antibiotics you'd be given for something like a UTI have no impact on how well your hormonal birth control works. Only a few (rarely used) antibiotics, like rifampin and rifabutin—prescribed to treat tuberculosis—can impact effectiveness. Still, tell your gyno whenever you start any new medication, even OTC ones. Some meds, including anti-seizure drugs and herbs like St. John's wort, can mess with the efficacy of birth control pills.
How long should you try to get pregnant before seeing a fertility doc?
The rule: Try to get pregnant for a year (or six months if you're over age 35) before talking to your gynaecologist about fertility testing.
The real deal: Check in with your doc as soon as you're ready to get on the baby-making train. She may want to run a fertility workup ASAP, especially if you've ever suffered from painful or irregular periods, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease, or if you have a family history of early menopause—all factors that can impact fertility.
Just how worried are you about STDs?
The rule: Young? Female? HPV is your main concern.
The real deal: The human papillomavirus, which can raise your risk for cervical cancer, should be on every sexually active woman's radar. But so should gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Rates of these two bacterial infections—which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and long-term pelvic pain—are at record highs, and they're often symptomless. Get checked every three to six months if you have multiple partners, especially if you have unprotected sex. Monogamous? Test annually. An asymptomatic STD your partner may not even be aware he contracted years ago can still be transmitted.
Should you get a pelvic exam every year?
The rule: There's no need for routine pelvic exams.
The real deal: Nonpregnant, asymptomatic women can skip them, per the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, but our pros say you should hop into the stirrups annually. A routine pelvic exam allows your doc to spot certain cancers and issues like fibroids and cysts that can spell trouble for your fertility and overall health.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US