The Benefits of Relationship-Based Health Care for Women of All Ages
Taking good care of one’s health is a lifelong endeavor, and finding medical caregivers who understand and grow with you isn’t always easy. As women age and change, their health care needs evolve as well. It takes time, self-advocacy, and knowledge to get the best care possible for your needs. We spoke with experts from Lifecycle WomanCare on relationship-based healthcare, Carol Sudtelgte, LWC Midwife, and Megan King, LWC’s Nurse Manager, to find out what you need to know about your health care through the ages.
Your daughters should begin speaking to or seeing a women’s health care provider when they are ready to do so, which may occur around the age of 13 to 15 years old, though this varies from woman to woman, Sudtelgte and King told us. “This is an important time for a young woman to have the opportunity to discuss the changes she is experiencing in a confidential setting where the information she receives will help her navigate the difficult adolescent and teen years,” Sudtelgte said. They needn’t be afraid of a pelvic exam, as this should not be necessary until they are older.
In order to ensure the young woman is comfortable, the medical provider should provide an intimate client-to-caregiver relationship, offering a safe and open opportunity for the young woman to ask questions and understand answers. Allotting extra time to these appointments, and really listening well, are the foundations of care at LWC, and are key for allowing a young woman to fully comprehend her healthcare options, as well as express her needs, in a confidential and at-ease setting.
Change Is Good
As a woman grows older, her needs change. These changes may run the gamut, from physical, to physiologic, to hormonal fluctuations, with emotional and mental variances accompanying them. A holistic, relationship-based approach to care is the most effective approach for all stages of life, to ensure the woman’s changing needs are addressed, says King.
In women’s teens and twenties, for example, women are developing maturity and self-esteem, which have great impact on their developing healthy sexual and emotional relationships. Entering motherhood, a woman’s health concerns turn toward pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting; during this time, women may be at a greater risk for exhaustion, vitamin deficiency, obesity, and depression. A health care provider’s role during these times, Sudtelgte explained, is to help clients remember that even as they are focused on caring for others, they cannot forget themselves! Maintaining their own health is essential as well. No matter a woman’s age, visits should include not only a physical exam, but also an assessment of diet, exercise, and emotional well-being.
After motherhood comes perimenopause and menopause, as a woman’s health care needs shift once more. “There are many physical changes to navigate,” Sudtelgte explained, “as well as preventative screening tests (mammogram, bone density scanning, lab work, etc.) that may be new to her.” Her emotional needs also will transition, as her own children become adults, and as she may need to begin caring for her parents. Sudtelgte notes the importance of the therapeutic relationship between client and health care provider which will allow women to share what is impacting her health, be it emotional or physical. Sudtelgte said, “At LWC, we recognize that a woman’s needs will change throughout the stages of her life, and we, her providers, must listen carefully and change with her.” LWC does this handily, focusing on health promotion, disease prevention, and providing an environment that allows for open communication to address all women’s health concerns.
With the constant changing needs of a woman’s health, what doesn’t need to change is the provider. One of LWC’s mottoes is “For Birth, For Health, For Life,” and it shows with their loyal client base. Their philosophy of care allows providers to grow with their clients, King told us, with a deep rooted respect for women. “We recognize that as a woman’s health changes, so must the care she receives, so as providers we must be flexible: always pursuing the highest level of up-to-date clinical care, always listening to what a woman needs given the phase of life she is in, and always open to grow with our client families.”
And this experience carries through many generations! Lifecycle WomanCare has been providing exceptional healthcare services for women of all ages, regardless of income, since 1978. “One of the most amazing experiences,” Sudtelgte shared, “is watching the multi-generations of LWC clients grow — some of our early clients who had children here, decades later have watched their grandchildren be born here as well!” See the difference for yourself.
Photograph courtesy of LifeCycle Womancare.
Lifecycle WomanCare, previously known as The Birth Center, has been providing exceptional healthcare services for women of all ages, regardless of income, since 1978. We were the first licensed birth center in Pennsylvania and are one of the oldest continually operating birth centers in the United States. We have changed our name to Lifecycle WomanCare (LWC) to illuminate and highlight the breadth of high-quality care we provide to women over the course of their entire lifetime—from adolescence through post-menopausal years.