Raising a teenager can be challenging, especially when it seems as though children grow up more quickly nowadays. It’s no wonder that many women ask me if their teenage daughters need to see a gynecologist at this stage. The answer is YES. Here’s why.
American Health Guidelines
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that girls first see a gynecologist when they are between 13 to 15 years old — regardless of whether they engage in sexual activity. This allows us to establish a relationship, to answer any questions about puberty and periods and also to give preventative guidance to teens and their parents. Pap smears are not done until age 21 or older so no need for an internal exam before then!
INFORMATION IS POWER!
Your daughter’s body is changing, and it can be a scary prospect (for both of
you!). Parents have differing degrees of comfort giving the “birds and the bees”
talk — or sometimes, a daughter may feel too embarrassed to ask about the changes her body is undergoing. Many schools offer sex education, but puberty and adulthood may still feel overwhelming to someone starting that journey. A gynecologist will provide accurate, helpful information and ensure that your daughter is aware of important issues regarding vaginal health, menstruation (and premenstrual syndrome or PMS), other puberty-related topics, STDs, and other genital diseases, and the impact of sexual activity. The gynecologist may teach or discuss with your daughter:
Female anatomy and how it all works
Understanding and accepting her body
What is normal for a menstrual cycle
The importance of hygiene
How to use sanitary products such as tampons and pads
How hormones may be affecting her body, skin and moods
About safe sex and the risks that arise with sexual behavior
Different methods of birth control — and whether she should take them for reasons unrelated to sex
How to tell if she has a vaginal infection or other issues that may require treatment
Particular diseases that tend to affect women such as breast cancer and HPV
Healthy safe relationships
It is essential — and beneficial — for young women to develop relationships
with doctors/gynecologists before they need more adult-type services. If she is
comfortable with and trusts her physician, she is more likely to be forthcoming
about potential health issues and honest about her sexual activity and
circumstances. She may feel more comfortable talking to her doctor than other adults in her life. Her gynecologist must be aware of all relevant circumstances to devise the best treatment and care. By the time she actually needs a pap smear (age 21) or other services, they know each other well enough that it is a seamless transition. Another advantage is that the earlier a young woman starts seeing a gynecologist, the earlier she can learn to discern what is “normal” and “not normal” during her body’s changes thus helping pave the way to self acceptance.
The First Appointment
Your teenage daughter’s first appointment with the gynecologist will be all about getting to know her — her medical history, any particular issues, personality — and establishing an open and trusting relationship. Dr. Karmel will tell her what to expect regarding what her body is experiencing and doctor patient roles. As always, our approach is tailored to each patient so topics discussed may vary depending on the age and the maturity level of the young woman.