4 Ways OB-GYNs Can Help Women Over 40

Oct 4, 2022


Women older than 40 face a unique set of health concerns, but many stop seeing their OB-GYNs around the time that menopause begins.  

“Women wonder why they need to see a gynecologist if they’re not having children anymore,” says Ross Hanchett, MD, an OB-GYN at Adventist Health Women’s Health in Paradise. “But many conditions and cancer risks increase as women approach menopause in their 40s and 50s.” 

This is a vital time to develop a relationship with a trusted provider who can help you chart a smart course through the coming years. 

Early cancer detection  

Because the risk of many cancers can increase with age, middle-aged women should keep up with routine screenings, says Moira Kehoe, NP, a women’s health nurse practitioner at Adventist Health. During your annual well-woman visit, your provider can conduct a pelvic exam to look for symptoms of ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer. He or she can also order a mammogram to detect signs of breast cancer if you’re due for a screening.  

“This is a great time to talk to patients about their family history and personal risk factors,” Kehoe says. Family history evaluations are critical for determining how often to screen for hereditary conditions such as breast, ovarian and colon cancer. 

See a provider if … you experience any postmenopausal or postcoital bleeding, Kehoe says. 

Caring for incontinence 

Many women go through challenging physical changes beginning in their 40s. Weak pelvic floor muscles and changing hormones can lead to urinary incontinence, which can be frustrating and embarrassing. “Urinary incontinence is really an accumulation of years of pelvic stress — carrying babies, jogging, even obesity — that causes chronic pressure,” Dr. Hanchett says. 

Your provider can recommend treatment options that may include medication, lifestyle changes or pelvic floor muscle exercises. 

See a provider if … your incontinence is disrupting your daily activities, Dr. Hanchett says. 

Better bone health 

Women reach their peak bone mass in their late 20s, then lose bone mass throughout the rest of their lives. But many women ignore the topic until they’re already at risk of osteoporosis, Dr. Hanchett says. 

“Thinking about bone health throughout a woman’s life is very important. Women regularly live into their 90s, but they need the bones to carry them there,” he says. 

He recommends taking a daily calcium supplement, staying active and avoiding smoking to keep your bones healthy for decades to come.  

See a doctor if … you haven’t already discussed strategies for better bone health, no matter your age.  

Are you nearing menopause? 

While menopause officially starts when you have not experienced a menstrual period for 12 months, symptoms can begin years earlier. Look for a change in your menstrual cycle, which marks perimenopause. 

In this phase leading up to menopause, many women have uncomfortable symptoms driven by hormonal shifts. “Shared decision-making between you and your physician is crucial to guide your care through these transitions. It’s about understanding what’s normal, what’s not and making decisions accordingly,” explains Ross Hanchett, MD. 

If you have any of the following symptoms, speak to your OB-GYN about ways to prepare for and manage menopause. 

  • Irregular periods: Your menstrual cycle may get shorter or longer, and you could even skip periods. 
  • Hot flashes: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to sudden changes in body temperature. You might feel hot, flushed or sweaty. 
  • Disrupted sleep: Between night sweats — hot flashes that happen while you sleep — and stress, you may have a harder time falling and staying asleep. 
  • Mood swings: Hormonal shifts, frustration with your changing body and lack of sleep can all contribute to an increased risk of mental health concerns, such as depression.