6 important health questions women should ask mom
Growing up, your mother knew you well, especially the history of your health. She kept organized records of your immunizations, doctor’s visits and what childhood diseases you had. But now that you’re an adult and your mom is getting older, how well do you know her health history?
Many of us may know very little about our parent’s health history, unless we have asked questions about it or they have shared it with us. For women, finding out about their mom’s health history could be like opening a door showing a potential view of what their health future may look like. It may be a difficult conversation to start, but having these conversations are important as you learn about medical issues that could impact you or your children. If you mother has passed away or is not able to communicate her health history, ask another family member, such as her sister, brother, her mother or her close friends.
If you’re not sure what questions are important to ask, here is a list helping you gather information that can benefit your future health. Asking the right questions helps gather valuable details of what health screenings for certain disease you may be at risk for you and the steps to help you maintain or improve your health.
1. Did you have complications when you were pregnant?
Every woman’s pregnancy is unique. Just because your mom may have had certain complications, does not mean you will too. But, there are certain medical issues that if you mom had while pregnant, you may be at an increased risk for them also. These include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, severe hyperemesis gravidarum, miscarriage, and postpartum depression. Discuss with your doctor if your mom had any of these complications and how you can reduce your risk.
2. What was your menstrual cycle like?
Knowing about your mom’s menstrual cycle can be an insight into health condition you might have inherited, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder that affects younger women and includes symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, facial hair, acne, and sometime, infertility. Endometriosis can also be a cause of infertility and is often associated with painful menstrual cycles. If you mom had any of these issues, this can provide your doctor better understanding what may be going on with you and can treat your symptoms as early as possible.
3. Do you have any cardiovascular issues?
Since cardiovascular or heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in the U.S., asking your mom if she has or has ever had high blood pressure or diabetes, could indicate a health issue you need to know about. Ask her if she is being treated for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Also ask if she has ever had any heart issues that you don’t know about such as a heart attack, stroke or atrial fibrillation. If so, your doctor will likely keep an eye on your heart health by working with you to lower your risk for heart disease.
4. Have you had breast, ovarian or uterine cancer?
Depending on what age a woman may be diagnosed with a female cancer makes a difference. If your mom was diagnosed at the age of 80 with breast cancer is different than if she was diagnosed with it at age 40. A diagnosis at age 80 probably is age-related breast cancer and not likely genetic but at age 40, could indicate a genetic link. Breast, ovarian and uterine cancers can have genetic links that can be passed down through the generations. Be sure to ask if she has ever had an abnormal mammogram or breast biopsy. If she has, you and your doctor may decide that genetic counseling and testing should be done.
5. Do you have osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is more common in women than heart attacks, strokes, and cancers combined. An osteoporotic fracture can be very dangerous and often have long-term effects on a woman’s health. A main risk factor for osteoporosis is family history making it imperative you ask your mom about this disease. Has she had back pain or has her height or posture changed recently? Has she ever fractured or broken a bone? If you know there is a family history of osteoporosis, let your doctor know. If you are over the age of 45 or between 50 and 64 and have a parent who has broken a hip, your doctor may screen you for osteoporosis.
6. What was your experience with menopause like?
It is common for women to have a similar experience of menopause like their mother did. One important question to ask is what age was she when her period had stopped for one year? Most women tend to go into menopause at around the same age. Or did she have a surgical menopause such as a complete hysterectomy and if so, why? It’s also helpful to ask your mom if she had a lot of symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats or brain fog. If she had these symptoms, you are more likely to also. Be aware that menopause is the time when chronic diseases start to develop. Hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, all can begin around the time of menopause. Letting your doctor know this information allows them to help you develop a personalized plan to have an easier and healthier transition into this phase of life.