When should my daughter have her first gynecology visit?

August 03, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
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.

An annual gynecologic check-up is essential for young women. When is the right time to go?

While many girls may have their first gynecologic visit during college years, 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, she may need to go earlier.

Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) and nurse midwives, as well as many family medicine and internal medicine physicians, can provide gynecologic care and well-woman visits.

An OB-GYN is a physician who specializes in women’s health and the female reproductive system. A nurse midwife is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who specializes in women's well-care services, including gynecologic care.

Whether your daughter is a teen or young adult, her first gynecologic visit is an introduction to a lifelong relationship. Yet, the first visit can be quite intimidating and stressful. It's important to find a clinician who takes the time to make your daughter feel as comfortable as possible.

The first visit

Depending on her age, your daughter’s first gynecologic visit 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 clinician 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 clinician. You want your daughter to be honest and share information, and she may feel more comfortable talking confidentially with the clinician about certain things.

Routine visits

As your daughter grows up, gynecologic care includes 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 and young women

As your daughter grows and matures, encourage her to make healthy lifestyle choices:

The gynecologists and nurse midwives at Edward-Elmhurst Health specialize in women's overall reproductive health and provide gynecologic services to patients of all ages and life stages. Many primary care physicians offer gynecologic services as well.

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

Midwives provide well-care services for patients at all stages of life, not just during pregnancy. Learn more.

Does your daughter need a primary care physician? Learn more and find one.

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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