Many parents are unsure when they should be bringing their daughters in for their first visit to a gynecologist. Girls, meanwhile, can be nervous about their first visit, especially when they don’t know what to expect, or when they are embarrassed to talk about their reproductive health. Here is what parents (and girls) should know about the first trip to a gynecologist.
At what age should I schedule my daughter’s first gynecological exam?
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls come in for their visit gynecological exam between the ages of 13-15. A reasonable time to schedule an appointment is after the first menstrual period, especially if your daughter has questions she’d like to ask a doctor or is uncomfortable talking to her parents about her reproductive health. At this age, most girls are well-aware that they are undergoing physical changes, and understand the need for a new type of care. They may even be excited to enter this new phase of their lives.
What can my daughter and I expect in her first visit to a gynecologist?
A girl’s first experience with reproductive healthcare should be positive and low-stress. The first visit generally does not include a pelvic exam or Pap test, which, in most cases, can wait until age 21. A girl going in for her first appointment with an ob-gyn can expect a general physical exam, an external genital exam and an opportunity to speak candidly with a professional about her changing body. The general physical exam will be familiar – a nurse will record height, weight, blood pressure, and the doctor may check for common health problems (much like the physical exams administered by a pediatrician). During the external genital exam, the doctor will examine the vulva – the entrance to the vagina – and may use a mirror to help the patient identify parts of her own body she may not have discussed before.
For parents, be prepared to give your child some distance. It’s important that your daughter can raise topics with her gynecologist that she may not be comfortable discussing in front of a parent. The best way for her to take ownership of her own reproductive health is to enter into a trusting, one-on-one relationship with a doctor she can share important personal information with. Of course, if your daughter prefers to have you with her in the exam room for all or part of the appointment, that’s no problem.
Should my daughter continue seeing a pediatrician?
Often, parents wonder if their daughter can or should discontinue visits to her pediatrician once she’s making regular visits to an ob-gyn. The answer depends on the specific needs of the patient and the ob-gyn’s preference for how they practice. While it is perfectly normal to continue seeing a pediatrician into college (and can be helpful, especially when there is a complicated medical history that the pediatrician knows well), some patients may do well with with single annual visit to the ob-gyn.