Medically reviewed by Maureen Farrell, M.D.
Your reproductive health is a big part of your overall health and well-being. Whether you’re about to deploy, just arrived at a new duty station or are staying put for a while, your reproductive health shouldn’t take a back seat to your busy life. We know how overwhelming it can be to talk to your medical provider about sensitive topics, so here are 10 questions you should be asking, and why.
1. What preventive screenings should I be getting, and how often?
Why you should ask this question: Preventive care screenings are an important way to catch certain medical issues like cancers and infections early, even if you aren’t having any symptoms. An early diagnosis can increase your options for treatment. Knowing how often you should be screened can also help you plan ahead before a deployment or change of duty station so you don’t miss any important tests.
2. When should I get a mammogram?
Why you should ask this question: Mammograms are images of the breast that screen for breast cancer. Your age, medical history and family history all play a role in determining when you should get a mammogram and how often you should get them.
3. Do I need to be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and which tests should I get?
Why you should ask this question: STIs are preventable and treatable, but when they go undetected, they can have large impacts on your health. You can also spread them to your partner without knowing it. STI testing isn’t always a standard part of your medical visit, so it’s important to talk to your medical provider about what tests to get and when.
4. Is my vaginal discharge normal?
Why you should ask this question: Vaginal discharge, the clear or whitish fluid that comes out of your vagina, is perfectly normal and is how your vagina keeps itself clean. It can change throughout your life, and that is also normal. But, certain odors and colors of discharge can be a sign that something is wrong. You should discuss any changes in your discharge with your medical provider.
5. Is heavy bleeding during my period normal?
Why you should ask this question: Heavy bleeding during your period can be completely normal. But it can also be a sign of a more serious health condition that your medical provider can help you identify and treat.
6. How can I delay my period while I’m deployed?
Why you should ask this question: Deployment conditions often lack readily available facilities that are clean and private, making it difficult to manage your period and purchase your chosen feminine hygiene products. There are no health reasons why you need to have your period each month, and there are safe, effective ways for you to delay your period while you’re deployed.
7. Which birth control method is right for me?
Why you should ask this question: Not all birth control methods are the same, and your reasons for wanting birth control may be more than just preventing pregnancy. With so many different options to choose from, talking to your medical provider about your goals, lifestyle and medical history will help you choose the right one. Pro tip: Download the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) free app, Decide + Be Ready, to help you organize your questions about your contraception options.
8. I might want to get pregnant in the future. Is there anything I can do now to help protect my fertility?
Why you should ask this question: While many factors that affect fertility can’t be changed, like genetics or certain medical conditions, there may be some things you can do — like managing deployment conditions differently — to help protect your fertility.
9. When can I expect to go through menopause?
Why you should ask this question: Menopause comes with many different symptoms and can arrive over a wide age range. The average age for menopause in the U.S. is 51, but women usually start experiencing perimenopause, when the body starts transitioning to menopause, in their 40s. Your lifestyle choices and medical and family history may affect when you begin the transition.
10. Are my symptoms normal?
Why you should ask this question: As a woman in the military, it can sometimes be difficult to feel heard. Having something wrong without knowing why or having your condition misdiagnosed can have negative effects on your health, both physically and mentally. Being your own advocate and asking your medical provider about your specific symptoms will help you manage and treat any conditions so you can live your healthiest life.