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Women’s health: How you can live a healthier life at any age, starting now

Illustration of women

It’s no secret that when women are healthy, families and communities thrive. But from menstruation to menopause, women face many distinct — and sometimes complex — health events that require care, understanding and partnership from a health care provider. 

This National Women’s Health Week, make your health a priority by leaning into preventive care and taking action to live your healthiest life now. Scroll down to find some ideas based on your age and stage of life, and remember: No matter where you are in your health journey, BJC is here to help.



The tween years — defined as ages 9 to 13 — are a period of rapid growth and development, especially for girls, who mature, on average, two years earlier than boys. Tweens might feel self-conscious about all the changes happening with their bodies. It’s important to reassure them that this is normal and help them talk through their feelings.

During this phase, girls typically get their periods (the average age of first menstruation is 12), and during the first couple of years of your daughter’s period, their cycle might be a little irregular. If your daughter hasn’t gotten her period or feels like her periods are too short, long, heavy or painful, you should talk to their pediatrician or a pediatric gynecologist.

The HPV vaccine is also recommended for all patients starting at age 11. This vaccine is important to help prevent cancer-causing infections and pre-cancers.

For more information about taking care of tweens, St. Louis Children’s Hospital regularly posts practical advice on raising happy and healthy kids to MomDocs.


Late teens and twenties

If your teen is having issues with irregular, heavy or painful periods or is thinking about becoming sexually active, you can schedule her first appointment with a gynecologist. A gynecologist is a provider your teen may see for the rest of her life, so take care in finding a doctor with whom your child is comfortable — it’s important that girls can relate to and be honest with their doctors. This may mean seeking recommendations from friends, family or the internet.

Talk with your daughter ahead of time about what to expect during the appointment. You or a loved one can also prepare her by sharing personal experiences about the length of a cycle, how heavy a period is and how long menstruation lasts — these are questions the provider will ask.

Your teen might have already received the HPV vaccine through their pediatrician, which can help prevent cervical cancer. If she hasn’t received the vaccine yet, a gynecologist can help explain why it’s necessary to protect her health.

If your daughter doesn’t have issues with her menstrual cycle and isn’t sexually active, she should make an appointment with a gynecologist when she turns 21 for her first well-woman exam. Pap smears start at this age.



The average age American women deliver their first child has trended up over the past decade, with many women choosing to start families in their thirties. If you’re ready to start trying for a baby, find an ob/gyn who will partner with you on your pregnancy and parenthood journey, and schedule a preconception appointment.

Your thirties may also be a time to talk with your doctor about whether you need early screenings for certain cancers. One to consider: a breast cancer risk assessment, which can calculate your risk of developing breast cancer over a certain period. Depending on your score, your doctor might decide to bump up your screening mammography to begin at age 30. Typically, screening mammography starts at age 40.



If you’re at average risk for developing breast cancer, age 40 is the time you’ll start scheduling your annual mammogram. Forty is also a time of transition toward menopause. Your doctor will talk with you about perimenopause symptoms and what to expect as you begin this new stage of life.

At 45, you should also start screening for colorectal cancer. In 2021, amid rising rates of colon cancer in younger adults, a U.S. task force lowered the screening age for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45. When caught in its early stages, this disease can be treated more easily.



On average, menopause occurs at age 51. Symptoms of menopause may include hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, brain fog, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness and mood changes. This is because your levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. Your ob/gyn might start talking to you about hormone replacement therapy as well as non-hormonal treatment options. Whichever is right for you, make sure you find a provider who acknowledges the impact the symptoms can have on your life and can talk to you about potential treatment options, their benefits and their risks.


Sixties and beyond

Your sixties are the time you want to talk to your doctor about your bone health. Schedule a bone density scan and make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and doing enough weight-bearing exercises. 

Pelvic organ prolapse — when the uterus, bowel, bladder or the top of the vagina drops or bulges into the vagina — is a condition that affects 1 in 3 women in their sixties and half of women in their eighties. Prolapse can cause discomfort and incontinence, and though it's not dangerous to your health, there are treatment options — pelvic floor therapy or surgery — that can minimize symptoms and allow you to enjoy a better quality of life.

Need help finding a provider who can guide you or a loved one through these health changes? Find a BJC-affiliated pediatrician, primary care provider or ob/gyn today. 

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