If you are the parent of a teenage girl, you might be wondering when she should start seeing a gynecologist. Here is a look at the factors that go into determining the right age to start seeing these medical professionals and what you and your daughter can expect from your first visit.
Recommended Ages For When Should A Girl Start Seeing A Gynecologist
According to the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology and the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, young women should start getting routine Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer at 21, regardless of their level of sexual activity.
However, many girls need to see a gynecologist well before then. In fact, with the average age of the onset of menstruation for girls in the U.S. being 12 years and 9 months, it may be appropriate for your daughter to see a gynecologist as young as 13. One of the top reasons that girls first visit gynecologists are issues related to her period or lack thereof.
If your daughterl does not start to show secondary sexual characteristics such as pubic hair and breasts by 13, it may be a good idea to see a physician to ensure her development is on track. If she does have signs of development such as pubic hair and breast development but has not had her first menstruation by 15, it is important to get further evaluation. Your daughter’s pediatrician can help determine whether seeing a gynecologist would be helpful.
An irregular period is not necessarily a reason to visit a gynecologist on its own as it is common for periods to be irregular when a girl first starts menstruating. However, for girls who continue to have irregular cycles several years after their first period, seeing a gynecologist may help to determine why. Women who have excessive menstrual pain that cannot be managed with over-the-counter pain medication or their period is so heavy that they need to change their tampons or pads every hour, should also see a gynecologist.
In addition, if a specific issue develops, such as a yeast infection or other female health care concern, a gynecologist is the right doctor to visit.
Regardless of their age, girls should always visit a gynecologist once they become sexually active. Ideally, they will see a gynecologist beforehand to discuss birth control.
The First Visit
Coming to see a gynecologist does not always mean that a pelvic exam is needed. The first visit may include a general physical exam, including taking your daughter’s weight, height, and blood pressure. There may also be a brief external genital exam. However, if your daughter is going to a gynecologist because of a specific issue, she may need a pelvic or internal exam
Girls need to understand early on that they have a doctor who can help them with reproductive health issues. Establishing a good rapport with a health-care professional before your daughterneeds to deal with more delicate matters such as sexually related issues can help her to become comfortable getting the help she needs in the future.
Let your daughter know ahead of her appointment that she will have a chance to talk to the doctor by herself during part of the visit, which will be a good time for her to discuss private topics with her doctor. Remind her that anything she talks with the doctor about will be kept between them. As long as your daughter is not doing anything that could hurt herself or someone else, what she discusses with the doctor is strictly confidential.
Many times, gynecologists will address risky behavior, such as unprotected sex, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse. They might also talk about puberty, hygiene, contraception, mental health, and sexually transmitted diseases depending on your daughter’s age and concerns.
Another topic that may come up is the human papillomavirus, or HPV vaccine. Many girls are given this series of injections around 11 or 12 to help prevent the sexually transmitted infection HPV, which is associated with most cervical cancers. Many people choose to get this vaccine before they become sexually active. Your doctor can discuss the specifics and let you know the recommended course of action in your daughter’s case.
Reach Out To Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness
Your daughter’s first visit to a gynecologist can be nerve-wracking for both of you. At Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness, we understand the emotions associated with this significant milestone and pride ourselves on offering a comfortable environment to patients of all ages. Get in touch today to find out how we can help your daughter establish a positive relationship with her health-care provider to help manage her health now and in the future.