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. A medical provider should also evaluate a teenage girl if she is 16 and has not yet started her period.
Teenage girls are especially 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. A gynecologist should evaluate their symptoms if they do not resolve.
If a teen is sexually active, she should visit a gynecologist to discuss contraceptive use. They should also speak with their provider about 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. If she prefers, she may have her exam in private. 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. The patient’s provider may use a small pediatric speculum designed for young teens. On occasion, a pediatrician or other medical professional may refer young children to a gynecologist. Gynecologists can often perform an exam without using a speculum by looking at the patient in various angles that enable them to better visualize the vagina.