The most important way to stay healthy? All women should check in regularly with their doctors and let them know when any suspicious symptoms arrive. But in between those doctor visits, some at-home tests and self-checks can be done in the privacy of your own bathroom. In fact, these DIY health assessments can sound the alarm for a number of women’s health conditions — from breast cancer to high blood pressure — and they could just save your life.
1. How to Do a Self Breast Exam
Giving yourself regular self breast exams can help you detect changes in your breasts so you can report them to your doctor ASAP. Do you know how to perform this important women’s health check?
First, stand with your upper body unclothed and look at your breasts in a mirror. Look for changes like dimpling, redness, or scaliness of the skin or nipples, and note any differences between the two breasts.
Next, lie down (this is a change from previous recommendations to do this exam standing in the shower). Raise your right arm above your head. Use the three middle fingers of your left hand to feel all over your right breast, beginning at the armpit. Repeat with your other breast.
2.How to Take the Home HIV Test
Concern over the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is nothing to ignore: HIV can cause AIDS. There’s only one home HIV test that is approved by the U.S. government, and it’s called “The Home Access HIV-1 Test System” or “The Home Access Express HIV-1 Test System.” This HIV test is available at pharmacies, by mail order, and online.
Here’s how the home HIV test works:
- Using a personal identification number (PIN), you anonymously mail a blood sample you collect yourself to a lab for professional testing.
- Use the PIN to get your results.
- Bonus: The system also provides confidential counseling.
3.How to Check Your Heart Rate
Heart disease is a serious women’s health condition (it’s the No. 1 killer of women in the United States). Fortunately, checking your own heart rate (pulse) can help uncover problems with your ticker.
To find your pulse, place your index and middle fingers on the underside of your opposite wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count your heartbeats for one minute. A resting pulse for adults should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If it’s consistently higher or lower, or if you detect an irregular heartbeat, call your doctor.
4. How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is another common women’s health condition — and it’s also a major risk factor for heart disease. A home blood pressure monitor is probably a good investment, especially if you already have hypertension. Normal readings are at or below 120/80.
Here are some things to keep in mind during your test:
- Measure your upper arm circumference before you purchase a monitor. Make sure the cuff size fits your arm (these measurements are included on the box).
- Make sure it’s easy to use and read.
- Ask your doctor’s office to check it for accuracy at every visit.
5. How to Test for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
If you’ve ever had a UTI, you’re familiar with the dreadful symptoms (the persistent need to urinate — and the burning sensation when you do). If you suspect that you have a UTI, an over-the-counter urine test can detect it right away.
Call your doctor if you test positive because you’ll need to start antibiotics to clear up the bacterial infection. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and cause a more serious problem. If the test is negative, but you still have symptoms, be sure to follow up with your doctor.
6.How to Test for Ovulation
At-home health checks aren’t only designed to uncover problems. An at home ovulation kit can help pinpoint the best time for you to conceive a baby. This urine test detects a rise in the hormone that signals your ovaries to release an egg.
Keep these points in mind when using this test:
- If you have a 28day menstrual cycle, test on the 11th day after you start your period. For longer or shorter cycle lengths, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If the test is positive, it means it’s likely you’ll ovulate in the next 24 to 36 hours.
7.How to Take a Pregnancy Test
Home pregnancy tests can be bought in most drug stores and are highly accurate, if used correctly. These tools work by measuring a pregnancy hormone in your urine. For best results, you should wait a week after your missed period.
Is the test positive? It’s time to see your doctor. Negative? There’s still a chance you could still be pregnant, so be sure to test again in a few more days — or see your doctor for a more sensitive blood pregnancy test (and any other testing for conditions that could impact pregnancy).
8.How to Check Your Skin for Malignant Moles
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests carefully checking your birthday suit on every birthday — a women’s health check that many of us neglect. If you notice any moles or spots changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist (a skin care specialist) to get them evaluated for skin cancer, an increasingly common women’s health condition. Most types are very treatable, if caught early.
9.How to Detect if You’re Depressed
Women’s health conditions aren’t all physical. Depression is very common among women — in fact, females are twice as likely as males to be diagnosed with the condition. The signs and symptoms of depression include weight loss or gain, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and fatigue. If you think you’re at risk, take this depression screening quiz on our partner site, PsychCentral.com, to help you get to the bottom of your blues. Most importantly, call a mental health professional if you suspect you are experiencing depression.