When should my daughter see a gynecologist?

April 11, 2019 | by Diana Calero-Kunda, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

As a mom, you’re familiar with scheduling doctor visits for your child. You schedule annual physicals, dental check-ups, eye appointments, orthodontist appointments and others. If you have a daughter, add gynecologic care to your list.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls first see a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. If your daughter has problems with her period, is sexually active or is planning to be, she may need to go earlier.

An obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) is a physician who specializes in women’s health and the female reproductive system. Your daughter’s first visit with an OB-GYN is an introduction to a lifelong relationship. Find a doctor who takes the time to make your daughter feel as comfortable as possible.

The first visit

Your daughter’s first visit with an OB-GYN will typically include a general physical exam (e.g., weight, height, blood pressure), and sometimes a breast exam and external exam of the vulva. The primary focus is to talk and build a relationship. The doctor will talk to your daughter about her development and how to stay healthy. Concerns that can be addressed at this first visit may include:

  • Cramps and problems with menstrual periods
  • Acne
  • Weight
  • Sex and sexuality
  • Birth control
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Alcohol, drugs and smoking
  • Sexual abuse
  • Mental health

You can ask your daughter if she would like you to be in the exam room with her. You may need to be there initially to provide a family history, but then step out so your daughter can speak privately with the OB-GYN. You want your daughter to be honest and share information, and she may feel more comfortable talking confidentially with the doctor about certain things.

Routine visits

As your daughter grows up, she’ll see an OB-GYN for the following:

  • A pelvic exam: Your daughter will likely not need to have a pelvic exam until she is 21 years old, unless she is sexually active or has certain symptoms (e.g., pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge, periods that are heavy, painful or irregular). During a pelvic exam, the doctor will use a speculum to look at the vagina and cervix and do screening tests (e.g., Pap test, tests for STIs). The doctor will also check the internal organs by placing one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina, with the other hand pressing on the abdomen from the outside.
  • Pap tests: Starting at age 21, your daughter will need to have regular Pap tests to check for abnormal changes in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. During a pelvic exam, the doctor gently scrapes a sample of cells from the cervix using a small brush. The current guidelines recommend women in their 20s have a Pap test every three years, and then every 3-5 years from ages 30-65.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: The HPV vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys to protect against HPV infections that can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, penis or throat. If the vaccine is given to girls while they are young, before they’ve had sex (prior to exposure to HPV), it can significantly reduce the risk of transmission of, and subsequent diseases caused by, HPV. Doctors recommend preteens get an HPV vaccine as part of their routine immunizations at age 11 or 12, as a series of two shots, given 6-12 months apart. For teens older than age 14, three shots are given over six months. Your daughter may get the HPV vaccine at her primary care physician’s office.
  • STI tests: If your daughter is sexually active, she may have tests for certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia and gonorrhea. Most of the tests that teens need can be done with a urine or blood test. Other times, the doctor takes a sample during a pelvic exam.
  • Birth control: If your daughter is sexually active, her OB-GYN can prescribe birth control. Sometimes birth control is prescribed to regulate menstrual periods as well. Options include: contraceptive pills, patches, vaginal rings, IUDs (intrauterine device) and subdermal implants.

Healthy lifestyle for girls

As your daughter grows into a teen, encourage her to make healthy lifestyle choices:

Need an OB-GYN for your daughter? Find an OB-GYN.

Related blogs:

Puberty: What’s normal, what’s not?

5 reasons your tween should get the HPV vaccine

How to talk to your kids about sex

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