As your daughter enters her teenage years, you—or she—may be looking for a care provider who she can talk to about her changing body. And, while a family doctor or pediatrician may be well-versed in her personal health history, a gynecologist can offer tailored medical care and advice specifically for young women.
While the decision to see a gynecologist is one that you and your daughter should decide upon together, there are four ‘W’s to consider:
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that adolescent girls have their first visit with a gynecologist between the ages of 13–15 for an external physical exam and appointment.
Internal physical exams and Pap smears are recommended to begin at age 21, unless a woman is experiencing painful periods, abnormal vaginal bleeding or other reproductive issues. In instances like these, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor right away.
You may be surprised to learn that your teenager is ready for a gynecologist appointment. But, as Jennifer Gilbert, DO, points out—it can be the start of a conversation and a way to educate girls about their reproductive health at an early age.
“This is an opportunity for you and your daughter to have an open conversation about issues like sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex and changes to her body. But it’s also a chance for her to have a conversation with someone other than a parent and ask questions she may not be comfortable asking you,” says Dr. Gilbert, an OB/GYN at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.
During the first appointment, a gynecologist may discuss topics like puberty, birth control, sex, the prevention of pregnancy and STD’s and menstrual issues like period pain or the frequency of periods.
“Her first appointment is intended to provide her with the tools and education to help her make informed decisions about her body during what can often be a confusing time,” says Dr. Gilbert.
Just like you’ve found the doctor that’s right for you, it’s important for your daughter to find a gynecologist that she’s comfortable with. And, while you may be choosing a doctor based on their hours or proximity to your home or office, your daughter’s list of what to look for in a gynecologist is likely a bit different.
Ask you daughter what she’s looking for in a care provider: Male or female? What age range is she looking for? Is she looking for a gynecologist, or would she be comfortable continuing to see her family medicine doctor or a nurse practitioner who is trained in gynecology?
What to expect
Once your daughter’s chosen a health care provider, you can help her prepare for what to expect during her first appointment.
As with all medical appointments, your daughter’s care provider will likely ask questions about health history. This may include questions about menstrual cycle and sexual history, as well as details of her personal health history—like allergies, additional medical conditions, etc.
The extent of the physical examination will vary depending on your daughter’s age. If she is under 21 and not sexually active, the physical exam will only be external. An external exam can include an examination of the vulva and breasts, but this is up to the discretion of the patient and physician. If your daughter is not sexually active or has no health concerns that require an exam, it may not be required.
If your daughter is at least 21 years of age, her first appointment will include an internal exam. In addition to an examination of the vulva and breasts, it will also include a Pap smear.
STD testing can also be administered during a gynecologist visit to girls and women who are sexually active, regardless of age.
Gynecology care at Main Line Health
A first-time gynecologic exam can be daunting for a young woman yet it’s an important step in taking responsibility for your health and your body. You can trust us with this milestone and know that we have experience treating and supporting adolescent girls with gynecologic issues common among younger women. Our office visits are safe and confidential and we treat you with utmost care and respect.