Many parents who have teenage girls are not sure when they should start taking their daughters to see the gynecologist. Undergoing yearly Pap smear tests to screen for cervical cancer is recommended at 21 years of age, regardless of one’s sexual activity. However, issues may come up long before that age.
Since most American girls experience their periods starting at 12 years and 9 months of age, it’s advisable for girls to start seeing a gynecologist at age 13. A Lake Nona gynecology specialist can offer advice on when and why teenage girls should start to visit a gynecologist.
Teen Visits are Different from Mom’s Appointments
Moms shouldn’t expect their daughter’s first consultation to reflect their own yearly visit to the gynecologist. Most initial tests do not involve a pelvic examination, and teens should know that beforehand to put their mind at ease.
A vast majority of young girls do not require Pap screening for cervical cancer until they are 21. Instead, the consultation will likely involve an overall physical examination, which includes height, weight and BP measurements.
The doctor might also conduct a brief external genital evaluation, but the visit is usually more conversational.
In many cases, the first visit for a young girl is a chance to speak about her development and develop a relationship with the gynecologist.
During the visits, the physician counsels the patient about risky habits like unprotected sex, smoking, and abuse of drugs and alcohol. It’s always better to have a parent or guardian in the consultation room initially to help the teenager feel less anxious. But at some point, the gynecologist may ask the adult to leave the room so that the young girl can feel free to express their thoughts.
Whatever is said in the doctor’s office is strictly confidential; unless the patient is doing something that may hurt them or somebody else.
Another essential topic during most initial gynecological visits is vaccination against HPV (human papillomavirus). It’s a sexually transmitted infection that is linked to most cervical cancers. Physicians advise that one of the most effective ways for prevention is getting an HPV vaccine, which is administered at age 11 or 12.
The vaccine offers protection to young girls before they become sexually active. It still works even after sexual activity, but its effectiveness is lower. It’s essential for a girl to get the vaccination before she’s exposed to HPV for utmost efficacy.
Knowing what is “Normal”
Without a doubt, every girl is different. But generally, if a girl doesn’t display secondary sexual characteristics e.g., breasts by 13 years of age, they might require an assessment. Additionally, if there is the development of breasts but the absence of menstruation by 15 years of age, visiting a gynecologist is necessary.
If a girl’s menstruation isn’t regular initially, particularly in the first two years, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is amiss. It is common for menses to deviate from the normal cycle of every 28 days or even skip a month.
However, it’s important to pay attention to menstrual cramps, if they’re too painful. Some pain with menstruation is normal, and can be managed with over-the-counter medicines or home remedies. However, if the pain is interfering with daily activities, consulting a gynecologist is essential.
Choosing a Physician
Parents or guardians should seek out a pediatric or adolescent gynecologist if their teenage girl has recurring problems, or concerns about their development. They should look for a reputable and trustworthy physician in order to ensure their daughter is in safe hands.