The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that adolescent girls visit a gynecologist for the first time between the ages of 13 and 15. If they are experiencing a health issue or if they are sexually active, they should go earlier.
Reasons for Visits
Many teens have irregular periods because their cycles have not yet fallen under the hormonal regulation expected for adults. While this is often normal and may not require intervention, girls should be evaluated if they have symptoms severe enough to interfere with their daily lives or are having prolonged or heavy periods. Teens should also be evaluated if they are 16 years old and have not yet started their period.
Teenage girls are susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. If they suspect a yeast infection, it is usually appropriate to attempt to treat them with an over-the-counter preparation. If symptoms do not resolve, however, she should be evaluated by a gynecologist.
If a teen is sexually active, she should visit a gynecologist to discuss contraceptive use, STDs, HPV vaccination, and other topics.
What to Expect
A teenager’s first visit to the gynecologist offers her a great opportunity to get to know her doctor, discuss common issues teens face, and ask any questions. Patients may wish to have their parents or another close relative there, however, they may also speak with the doctor privately if they feel more comfortable. The exam can also be done privately if she wishes. A nurse is always present for any examination that requires the patient to undress.
A physical exam may be as simple as listening to the heart and lungs and feeling the abdomen while the patient is fully clothed. Most teens with irregular or painful periods can be treated without a pelvic exam, particularly if they have not been sexually active. The physician may order blood work to check for anemia or an ultrasound to look at the pelvic organs.
Some visits will require a pelvic exam, particularly if there is a vaginal complaint or symptom, or if one has not had a menstrual period by the age of 16. A small pediatric speculum designed for young teens can be used. On occasion, young children may be referred to a gynecologist. They can often be examined in various positions that enable visualization of the vagina without a speculum.