Gynecologists specialize in women’s health, specifically the female reproductive system. They care for both adults and growing adolescents.
As a parent, it’s normal to feel nervous before your child’s first gynecologist appointment. Your child may also feel shy and reluctant to visit a new doctor. Knowing what to expect can help both you and your daughter feel more comfortable and prepared.
What Age to Start
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a girl’s first gynecologist visit be between the ages 13 and 15 years old.
Even if your daughter isn’t sexually active, annual gynecologist visits during adolescence can help identify any current health conditions and prevent future problems. Your child will develop trust with the doctor to talk about her changing body, periods, sex and lifestyle habits. Gynecologists also monitor for issues such as abnormal periods, pelvic pain or unusual vaginal discharge.
What to Expect During the Exam
Your daughter’s first visit will focus on getting to know the gynecologist, as well as a quick, general physical exam. Most teenage girls do not need an internal pelvic exam unless further testing is needed.
Vital Signs Check
A nurse will measure your daughter’s height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure. This helps the physician ensure she is staying healthy and creates a baseline to monitor for changes at her next appointment.
Your daughter’s physician may complete a brief breast exam to check for proper development. The physician will feel your child’s breasts for any lumps, cysts or other abnormalities.
For this part of the exam, your daughter will be asked to undress and wear a gown. She will lie on a table and the physician will place a sheet over her thighs to help her feel more comfortable. She will be asked to bend her knees and place her feet in stirrups. The physician will then examine the vulva. Your daughter should feel no pain during this exam.
Review of Medical History
The physician will ask your daughter a few questions about her medical history. The questions may feel awkward for your daughter to answer. Let her know she should answer truthfully. Explain that the doctor isn’t asking to pry or judge, but instead wants to understand more about her health and how to help. The physician may ask your daughter for the date of her last period, if she is sexually active and if she may be pregnant.
Tips for Parents
Visiting a gynecologist may be daunting at first, but with time your teen will become more comfortable at her visits. As a parent, you can help make the process easier. Here is what you can do:
- Ask your teen if she would like privacy with the doctor during the appointment to discuss topics that may be uncomfortable.
- Explain each part of the appointment in detail before you go. Describe everything in a positive light. Explain these visits are to keep her in good health.
- Involve your child in selecting the physician. Ask if she is more comfortable with male or female, young or old, and the same family provider or a different one.