Taking your teenage daughter to see her obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) for her first gynecological exam can be a daunting task. Your daughter’s likely to feel embarrassed, nervous, and anxious about it – and so are you! But it’s an event that needs to happen to ensure that she gets the proper medical care and treatment.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls make their first visit to an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 and 15. However, if your daughter is sexually active, develops early, or complains of any excessive abdominal cramping, painful periods, or vaginal discharge, she should be taken for a medical exam prior to those ages.
The exam is important because it enables teens to establish a relationship with their gynecologist for future reproductive health care. Gynecologists are also able to address issues that may not be addressed by your daughter’s primary physician like information relating to her menstrual cycle, birth control, abdominal pain and other reproductive issues she may encounter as she gets older.
Try these tips to help your daughter feel more comfortable about the exam.
Getting to Know the GYN:
- Explain the purpose of the exam. Talk with your daughter about why she needs to have the exam and what procedures she will undergo during the medical evaluation.
- Search for a doctor together. It’s very important that your daughter feel comfortable with her OB/GYN so take on the task of finding a doctor together. Identify a few doctors that you know are covered by your insurance carrier. Give her a choice of both male and female. Then allow her to choose the doctor she thinks is the best fit. You can interview a couple OB/GYN’s if she prefers. Another great way to find a doctor is to get a referral from one of your daughter’s friends or a family member.
- Make a list of questions to ask. Before going to the appointment, your daughter should make a list of questions she would like to ask the doctor. Give your daughter the opportunity to talk privately with her doctor. This will allow her to ask any questions that she may be too embarrassed to ask in front of mom or dad. It will also give the doctor a chance to ask important questions of her. Questions like “Are you sexually active?” are easier to answer if your parents aren’t sitting right there. It’s imperative that your daughter answer these questions honestly so that the OB/GYN can check for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Talk about what will happen during the exam. Give your daughter an idea about what types of tests will be given during the exam. Be honest and direct when talking with her. There are usually two steps to the exam. 1. A Talk with the Doctor. Most doctors begin the first appointment by just talking with their teenage patient. OB/GYN’s want to establish a trusting relationship with their young patients, so unless there is a reason to do the physical part of the exam (i.e. sexually active, abdominal pain), that part is typically scheduled for another time. However, due to time constraints and demands on physicians, some will do the entire exam that day, so it’s best to check with your doctor’s office before the exam to find out what he/she prefers. 2. The Physical. A nurse will begin by taking your daughter’s weight, height, blood pressure and other typical tests. Then she will be asked to put on a gown and the doctor will give your daughter a physical exam including: checking the internal and external vaginal areas, a pap smear (cells are collected from the cervix with a speculum to check for abnormalities), and a breast exam.
- Support her. Going to the OB/GYN is usually not a “fun” event for any woman. So try to imagine how scared, embarrassed, and anxious a 13 year old may feel. If your daughter feels uncomfortable during any part of the exam, let her know that it’s ok to stop and try another time. Encourage her to be “open and honest” with her doctor about anything and everything. Helping her build a strong, trusting relationship with her doctor will enable your daughter to feel more confident and ensure that she is getting proper health care.