Many moms with teenage daughters often wonder when it's time to take them to see a gynecologist. It can be a sensitive topic to discuss and is sometimes avoided all together.
However, it can be important to start good health care habits early.
Teenage girls can be self-conscious and have many questions they don't want to ask mom. It's encouraged that parents to bring their daughters in for an initial consultation during their early teen years. This is when physicians can begin building relationships that hopefully develop into a continuum of care.
Though current guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest an initial pap smear isn't needed until age 21, having the opportunity to talk with a medical practitioner builds rapport, trust and healthy self-esteem and helps decrease anxiety associated with future gynecological exams. It's important that young women be comfortable discussing topics they may feel embarrassed about.
Building Trust at First Appointment
The first appointment doesn't have to entail a physical exam. Some physicians prefer to chat with the mom and patient together, then with the daughter alone, discussing a wide range of topics ranging from peer pressure, sexual activity, abstinence, hygiene, drugs and alcohol. It's important to cover it all in a non-judgmental setting to avoid sounding like their parent.
There are certain circumstances where a physical exam may be necessary at the first or second visit. For example, if a young girl isn't showing signs of puberty by age 13 or she hasn't had her first menstrual cycle by age 18, she may need evaluation. Identifying delayed puberty development can help ensure the patient reaches full growth potential, retains bone health and avoids poor self-esteem. If the young patient has been sexually active, then an exam is warranted to screen for sexually transmitted viruses/infections.
Painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, can be another reason that young teens may want to visit the gynecologist.
If a young woman is missing school for example, due to intense pain, an appointment should be considered because there are things we can do to help. The first step would be to keep a menstrual calendar and pain diary to better assess what is going on.
An additional reason for extremely painful periods could be endometriosis, a disorder where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.
Endometriosis is a serious but treatable condition that often under diagnosed. This is a disease affecting women during childbearing years and may lead to infertility. Sometimes painful periods may be more than just painful periods; if you're not sure, you need to see a gynecologist.
Whether it is with a young teen to discuss puberty or a young women heading off to college, an appointment with a women's health provider is part of transitioning to adulthood.
Learn more about endometriosis here.