Get Your Well-Woman Visit Every Year

Schedule your well-woman visit with a doctor or nurse every year. The well-woman visit is an important way to help you stay healthy.

Well-woman visits include a full checkup, separate from any other visit for sickness or injury. These visits focus on preventive care for women, which may include:

  • Services, like shots, that improve your health by preventing diseases and other health problems
  • Screenings, which are medical tests to check for diseases early when they may be easier to treat
  • Education and counseling to help you make informed health decisions

What happens during a well-woman visit?
Your well-woman visit is a chance to focus on your overall health and wellness. There are 3 main goals for the visit:

  1. Documenting your health habits and history
  2. Getting a physical exam
  3. Setting health goals

1. Health habits and history
Before your physical exam, the doctor or nurse will ask you to answer some questions about your overall health. These questions may cover topics like your:

  • Medical history
  • Family’s health history
  • Sexual health and sexual partners
  • Eating habits and physical activity
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Mental health history, including depression
  • Relationships and safety

2. Physical exam
The doctor or nurse will examine your body, which may include:

  • Measuring your height and weight
  • Calculating your body mass index (BMI) to see if you are at a healthy weight
  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Taking your temperature
  • Doing a breast exam (feeling your breasts and under your arms for lumps or other changes)
  • Doing a Pap test and pelvic exam

3. Health goals
You and the doctor or nurse will talk about the next steps for helping you stay healthy. Together, you can decide which screenings or follow-up services are right for you.

If you have health goals, like losing weight or quitting smoking, you and your doctor or nurse can make a plan to help you meet these goals.

Take Action!

Take these steps to get the most out of your well-woman visit.

Know your family health history.
Your family’s health history is an important part of your personal health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of conditions that run in your family. Be prepared to tell your doctor or nurse this information during you well-woman visit.

Make a list of questions for your doctor.
This visit is a great time to ask the doctor or nurse any questions about:

  • Birth control options
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Preparing to get pregnant
  • Your safety and relationships
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Being more active

Some important questions include:

  • Do I need any important shots?
  • How can I protect myself from HIV and other STDs?
  • Which form of birth control is right for me?
  • How do I know if my relationship is healthy and safe?
  • Where can I get help for a mental health issue?
  • What changes can I make to eat healthier?
  • How can I be more physically active?

Take a notepad and write down the answers so you remember them later.

Talk with your doctor or nurse about which screenings you need.
Getting screening tests is one of the most important things you can do for your health. At your well-woman visit, the doctor or nurse may recommend screening you for:

In addition to screenings, the doctor may sometimes recommend counseling for:

Use the myhealthfinder tool to find out which screening tests you may need.

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, many insurance plans now cover at least one well-woman visit per year at no cost to you. Plans must also cover some screenings and types of counseling.

Contact your insurance provider to find out what’s covered by your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Follow up with the doctor or nurse after your visit.
During your well-woman visit, the doctor or nurse may recommend that you see a specialist or get certain screenings. Try to schedule these follow-up appointments before you leave the doctor’s office.

If that’s not possible, make a note on your calendar to schedule your follow-up appointments.

Get more tips on taking an active role in your health care.

Take steps to stay healthy all year.
There are things you can do every day to stay healthy. Find tips on:

Have a Healthy Pregnancy

It’s important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. To keep you and your baby healthy:

  • See your doctor or midwife regularly.
  • Get important medical tests.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Eat healthy foods and get enough folic acid.
  • Stay active.
  • Take steps to prevent infections.

To get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:

See your doctor or midwife regularly.
Schedule a visit with your doctor or midwife as soon as you know you’re pregnant, or think you might be. You’ll need many checkups with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy. Don’t miss any – they are all important.

Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal (“pree-NAY-tuhl”) care. A midwife is a health professional who provides prenatal care and helps women during childbirth.

Know the benefits of prenatal care.
Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early.

During prenatal care, your doctor or midwife can find health problems. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.

Make the most of each visit with the doctor or midwife.
Talk with your doctor or midwife about:

  • Your medical history, including surgeries you’ve had and medicines you take
  • Your family’s health history
  • Questions you have about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
  • How to get help buying food if you need it (ask about a program called WIC)
  • Anything that’s bothering or worrying you

Make a plan for the birth you want, including:

  • Where you would like to give birth – at a hospital, birthing center, or at home
  • Who you want with you for support (like trusted family members or close friends) before, during, and after your labor
  • How you want to manage pain during labor
  • Who you want to help you make important medical decisions during your labor
  • How to start breastfeeding after your baby is born

Find out when to call your doctor or midwife right away.

Talk about your family history.
Share your personal and family health history with your doctor. This will help you and your doctor or midwife decide whether you need any other tests, like genetic testing. Find out more about genetic testing.

Get important medical tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will recommend medical tests that all women need as part of routine prenatal care. Some tests need to be done more than once.

These tests give your doctor or midwife important information about you and your baby. Your blood and urine will be checked for:

If you are younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may also check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Get tested for diabetes.

  • Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes need to get tested at the first prenatal visit. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.

What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for moms and babies – during and after pregnancy. It’s important to get tested so that you and your doctor or midwife can take steps to protect your health and your baby’s health.

You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are over age 25
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
  • Have had a baby weighing over 9 pounds

You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy. Use these questions to ask your doctor about getting screened for gestational diabetes.

Learn more about gestational diabetes [PDF - 372 KB].

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover routine prenatal tests. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these tests at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

To learn about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

You can also get help from your state to pay for medical care during pregnancy. There are programs that give medical care, information, advice, and other services that are important for a healthy pregnancy. To find out about the program in your state:

  • Call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).
  • For information in Spanish, call 1-866-783-2645.

Take Action!

There are lots of things you can do today to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Get regular prenatal care.
Plan on getting a prenatal checkup at least every month for the first 7 months, and more often during the last 2 months of your pregnancy.

Get important shots.
The whooping cough and flu shots are recommended for all pregnant women. Talk to your doctor or midwife about getting other shots (vaccines) to help protect you and your baby. Learn more about important shots.

Take charge of your health care.
Speak up and ask questions when you are at a medical visit. When you play an active role in your health care, you help make sure that you and your growing family will get good care. Find out how to take charge of your health care.

Keep track of your baby’s movement.
After about 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will probably start to feel your baby move. Keep track of how often your baby moves. If you think your baby is moving less than usual, call your doctor or midwife.

Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
One of the best ways to protect your health and your baby’s health is to stop smoking and drinking alcohol before you become pregnant – or as soon as possible during your pregnancy.

There is no safe amount to drink or smoke while you are pregnant. Both can harm the health of your baby. Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways to help you quit.

Secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes) can also put you and your baby at risk for health problems. Stay away from cigarette smoke.

Learn more:

Eat healthy foods.
Making healthy food choices during pregnancy can help you gain weight in a healthy way, feel good while you are pregnant, and have a healthy baby.

Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to lose weight. Even if you are overweight, you still need to gain some weight for your baby to grow well. Ask your doctor or midwife how much weight is healthy for you to gain.

Stay active. 
Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Get more information about exercise during pregnancy:

Take steps to prevent infections.
To prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe:

Learn more about preventing infections during pregnancy.

Ask for help if you need it.
Being pregnant may be tiring or stressful at times. Extra support from loved ones can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Family members or friends can:

  • Provide emotional support so you feel less stressed
  • Visit the doctor or midwife with you
  • Go with you to a breastfeeding class
  • Change the litter box if you have a cat
  • Help prepare for the baby’s arrival by setting up furniture

Think about what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Plan ahead for the first few weeks with your new baby.
Having a new baby is exciting, but it can be stressful.

Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.

Eat Less Sodium: Quick tips

Nine out of 10 Americans eat much more sodium (salt) than they need. Too much sodium increases your risk for health problems like high blood pressure. Use these tips to help lower the amount of sodium in your diet.

Know your sodium limit.

  • Healthy teens and adults need to limit their sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).
  • Some people, including children, adults age 51 and older, and those with high blood pressure, need to keep their sodium intake even lower (no more than 1,500 mg a day).
  • Ask your doctor how much sodium is okay for you.

To eat less sodium, you don’t have to make lots of changes at once. If you cut back on sodium little by little, your taste for salt will change with time.

Check the label.

  • Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium in foods. Try to choose products with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less. A sodium content of 20% DV or more is high.
  • Look for foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”

Shop for low sodium foods.

  • Load up on vegetables, fruits, beans, and peas, which are naturally low in sodium. Fresh, frozen, and dried options are all good choices.
  • When you buy canned fruit, look for options packed in 100% juice or water.
  • When you buy canned vegetables and beans, choose ones with labels that say “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”
  • Compare the sodium in processed foods like bread, soup, and frozen meals. Choose the ones with less sodium.
  • Limit processed meats – especially ones that are salted, smoked, or cured, like hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats.

Prepare your meals with less sodium.

  • If you buy canned foods (like vegetables, beans, or fish), choose low sodium varieties.
  • If you use canned foods that aren’t low in sodium, rinse them before eating to wash away some of the salt.
  • Use unsalted margarine or spreads with no trans fats.
  • Don’t add salt to the water when you cook pasta or rice.
  • Try different herbs and spices to flavor your food, like ginger or garlic.

Get less salt when you eat out.

  • When you order at a restaurant, ask that salt not be added to your food.
  • Choose low-sodium options when you can – like dishes that are steamed, broiled, or grilled.

Add more potassium to your diet.

Eating more potassium can help lower your blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, dry beans, and yogurt.

Watch Your Weight

To stay at a healthy weight, balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn (use up). Calories are a measure of the energy in the foods you eat. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat.

A healthy diet and physical activity can help you control your weight. You burn more calories when you are physically active.

How do I know if I’m at a healthy weight?
Finding out your Body Mass Index (BMI) is the best way to learn if you are at a healthy weight. Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to find out your BMI and what it means for you.

  • If you are overweight or obese, you can lose weight by getting more physical activity and eating fewer calories.
  • If you are already at a healthy weight, keep getting regular physical activity and eating the right number of calories.

How do I know if I’m eating the right number of calories?
Use this Daily Food Plan tool to find out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

What can losing weight do for me?
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can lower your risk for serious health conditions like:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Early death

When you move more and eat healthy foods, you can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your blood sugar
  • Raise your “good” cholesterol
  • Lower your “bad” cholesterol
  • Have more energy during the day

You may start to see these health benefits by losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, this would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds.

Take Action!

Start by making a promise to eat well, move more, and get support from family and friends.

Set realistic goals.
If you need to lose weight, do it slowly over time. Start out by setting small goals, like:

  • I want to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
  • I will add 10 minutes of physical activity to my daily routine.
  • I will avoid second helpings of meals this week.

Keep a food and activity diary.
When you know your habits, it’s easier to make changes. Write down:

  • When you eat
  • What you eat
  • How much you eat
  • Your physical activity

Print this food and activity diary or make your own.

Get more physical activity.
Remember that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Get active to balance the calories you take in with the calories you use.

  • Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity a week.
  • Try to be active for 30 minutes 5 times a week.

Even some physical activity is better than none. If you don’t have time for 30 minutes of activity, get moving for shorter 10-minute periods throughout the day.

Check out these resources for more information:

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy can help you manage your weight – and it’s good for your overall health.

Here are a few healthy eating tips:

  • Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of your favorite foods.
  • Drink water or fat-free milk instead of soda or other sugary drinks.
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit.
  • When you eat out, ask for sauces or dressings “on the side” so you can control how much you use.

Check out these links to learn more:

Eat smaller portions.
Eating healthy food is important, but you also need to pay attention to how much food you eat. Take the Portion Distortion Quiz to test your knowledge. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Here are some ideas for watching your portions:

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Eat small, healthy snacks during the day. This will keep you from overeating at mealtimes.
  • Read the label to find out how many servings are in a package. There may be more than one!
  • Put a serving of food in a bowl instead of eating out of the package or container.
  • Serve food on plates and leave the main dish on the stove. You will be less tempted to go back for seconds.
  • If you are eating out, only eat half of your meal. Take the other half home.
  • Eat slowly – this will give you time to feel full.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. It’s harder to keep track of how much you are eating.

Get tips to help you enjoy your food while eating less [PDF - 520 KB].

Ask your doctor for help.
You may also want to talk to a doctor or nurse about different ways to lose weight. Your doctor can tell you about your options, like joining a weight-loss program. Check out these questions to ask your doctor about losing weight.

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for obesity. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

To learn about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Get Active

Regular physical activity is good for everyone’s health.

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time. Then try getting active more often.

What kinds of activity should I do?
To get all the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

  • Aerobic (“air-OH-bik”) activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups.

What are the benefits of physical activity?
Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. It can also help:

  • Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
  • Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
  • Prevent heart disease, colorectal and breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes

And that’s not all. Being more active can:

  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Improve your sleep
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Help you feel better about yourself

Is physical activity for everyone?
Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out-of-shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you.

What if I’m overweight?
If you are overweight or obese, getting active can help you lower your risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer

Find out more about how you can be active at any size.

What if I have a health condition?
If you have a health condition like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, physical activity can help you manage it. Ask your doctor what types of activity are best for you.

Visit these websites to learn more about:

Where can I learn more?
Visit these websites to learn more about physical activity for:

If you have a disability, your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. Use these tips to stay active with a disability.

Take Action!

First, think about your current physical activity level.

How active are you now?

The tips in this section are for adults. Use these tips to help your kids get more active.

I’m just getting started.
Start out slowly and add new physical activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, do them longer and more often. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these examples of physical activity plans.

For help getting motivated, sign up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) challenge. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Choose activities that you enjoy.
Team up with a friend or join a class. Ask your family and friends to be active with you. Play games like tennis or basketball, or take a class in dance or martial arts.

Everyday activities can add up to an active lifestyle. You can:

  • Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
  • Ride a bicycle to work or just for fun
  • Play outdoor games with your children

Get more tips on getting active.

Have fun with your family.
If you have children, you can be a role model for making healthy choices. Encourage your whole family to get active outside. Go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.

If someone you know has trouble making time for physical activity, use these tips to help your loved one get more active.

Strengthen your muscles.
Try some of these activities a few days a week:

  • Crunches (sit-ups)
  • Heavy gardening, like digging or shoveling
  • Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall
  • Lifting small weights – you can even use cans of food as weights

Watch these videos for tips on how to do:

If you do muscle-strengthening activities with weights, check out the do’s and don’ts of training with weights. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Track your progress.
Use this score chart to measure your current fitness level [PDF - 80 KB]. Fill out the chart again after you get moving, and see your score go up over time.

Use a pedometer.
A pedometer clips onto your belt or waistband and counts the number of steps you take. Make it your goal to take at least 10,000 steps a day. Increase the number of steps you take each day until you reach your goal.

Red PedometerA pedometer counts the number of steps you take.

Check out these tips for using a pedometer.

Be realistic.
Remember, it’s not all or nothing. Even 10 minutes of activity is better than none! Try walking for 10 minutes a day a few days a week.

Find a time that works for you. See if you can fit in 10 minutes of activity before work or after dinner.

I’m doing a little, but I’m ready to get more active.
You may already be feeling the benefits of getting active, such as sleeping better or getting toned. Here are 2 ways to add more activity to your life.

  • Be active for longer each time. If you are walking 3 days a week for 30 minutes, try walking for an additional 10 minutes or more each day.
  • Be active more often. If you are riding your bike to work 2 days a week, try riding your bike to work 4 days a week.

Find time in your schedule.
Look at your schedule for the week. Find a few 30-minute time periods you can use for more physical activity. Put them in your calendar. Try these ways to build more active time into your busy week.

Keep track of your activities with this activity log [PDF - 170 KB].

I’m already physically active, and I want to keep it up.
If you are already active for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week, you can get even more health benefits by stepping up your routine.

Getting more physical activity can further lower your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

Do more vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity has the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes.

Mix it up.
Mix vigorous activities with moderate ones. Try joining a fitness group or gym class. Don’t forget to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week.

Challenge yourself.
Check out the Presidential Champions program External Links Disclaimer Logo to get personalized activity logs, training tips, and more. See just how high you can raise your activity level!