Women's Health & Wellness in Prague

From deciding whether or not to go private to choosing the right OB/GYN, Wendy Wrangham offers some advice on the healthcare options available to women in the Czech capital

Medical tourism is becoming big business in the Czech Republic but expatriate residents can immediately benefit from the nation's high-quality healthcare system by paying into an insurance scheme.

And unlike healthcare systems in many countries, the Czech system is free; there are no "pay first and be reimbursed later (if you're lucky)" claims.

If the language barrier and the matter-of-fact bedside manner of some Czech health workers leave you cold, there are also superb -- although increasingly costly -- private facilities to choose from, whatever ailment may befall you.

As with any city in any nation, your first decision will be choosing a facility and/or doctor that suits you best.

Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations then make an appointment and remember that you can always search again if you don't feel comfortable with your first choice.

If you can do without pampering and hand-holding, take the Czech route but, unless you've already mastered the language, be sure to take a trusted friend along to translate for you.

Women's wellness and health screenings are the same the world over and as women's health issues predominantly lie within this sphere, you should choose your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) carefully.

Sexually active teens and all women over the age of 21 are advised to have an annual Pap smear to check for any abnormal cervical cells that could lead to cervical cancer.
As part of the visit, you'll be expected to give your medical history and sexual history and to undergo breast, pelvic and, of course, internal examinations.

Have your doctor instruct you on performing the breast exam so you can check for unusual lumps and bumps and, if you're over 40 or at particularly high risk of developing breast cancer, you should undergo annual mammograms, which are safe and relatively painless.

When it's detected early, the national average five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 96 percent.

Sexually transmitted disease screenings and HIV tests are available as standard, and should be undertaken or at least discussed if you have any doubts or symptoms.

Abortion is legal in the Czech Republic and is performed as an out-patient procedure. The morning-after pill is also available from your doctor.

Obstetric care in the Czech Republic is excellent and boasts the second lowest child mortality rate in the world (after Japan). The standard maternity stay for a non-Caesarian-section birth is five days.

Again, when choosing your OB/GYN, personal recommendations cannot be beaten.

There's no guarantee that your doctor will be present at the birth but you can do your utmost to ensure his/her presence -- cross-reference your due date with your doctor's planned summer vacation, for instance.

A bone density test is a simple and painless procedure that should be undertaken by all women over 65, by younger women with a higher known risk factor, and by all women who have had a hysterectomy.

Osteoporosis can cause substantial bone loss and bone tissue deterioration which, if not detected and treated early, leads to fragile bones that break easily.

Other health tests and wellness screenings that all women (and men) should undertake regularly -- especially as we age -- include blood-pressure tests, vision and hearing tests, and tests for diabetes, skin cancer and colorectal cancer.

Cholesterol screening should be routinely undergone every five years to help predict oncoming heart disease but pregnant women aren't required to have this test as pregnancy often causes higher-than-normal cholesterol numbers.

Stress and all manner of depression, whether pre-natal, post-natal or otherwise, should be discussed with your doctor and can lead to a specific referral if deemed necessary.

For a long time, cosmetic surgery has attracted medical tourism to the Czech Republic, especially from western European countries, and a look at the numerous facilities and procedures available here would necessitate a separate article.

As anywhere, never take any drug or undergo any medical procedure without explicitly asking your doctor about it.

Always follow your doctor's instructions, and make sure they're aware of all the medicines and preparations you are taking, including homeopathic and alternative remedies.

Remember also to bring all medical records with you from home and, while you should make every effort to stay healthy, if you do end up needing to visit a doctor, clinic or hospital here in the Czech Republic, rest assured that you're in safe -- if sometimes misunderstood -- hands.

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