Many moms aren’t aware that the first gynecology visit for their teen daughter is actually recommended for sometime between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. You probably had your first visit sometime around going to college. Hopefully, your experience was a good one.
The most important part of your daughter’s first gynecology visit is the chance for her to start developing a relationship with a doctor. It’s not about getting a Pap smear. Actually, no girls should be getting Pap smears (unless they are pregnant) until age 21. Many people — even some doctors — are not aware of this fact, so please spread the word. Pap smears are a screening test for cervical cancer, which is virtually non-existent in teenage girls. Young women who have been exposed to HPV through sexual activity frequently have abnormal Pap smears that, if just left alone, clear up on their own. An early abnormal Pap smear can trigger hasty treatments that are not needed and can lead to harm in the future. Teen girls can avoid contracting HPV in the future by getting vaccinated.
The first visit is 90% discussion and answering questions. The doctor usually starts with the parents and patient together. Your daughter will be asked about the basics of her life: school activities, siblings, etc., as well as the basics of her body: illnesses, surgery, issues with her period or other problems. We want to know what her concerns are, as well as your reasons for bringing her in. Then comes the exam, and it is truly no big deal. It is your daughter’s choice if she would like a parent present for the exam or not. The exam just consists of looking, listening with the stethoscope and palpating (feeling) for anything abnormal. A pelvic exam with a speculum is almost never.
There is always time for the doctor and patient to discuss sensitive issues alone. Unless your daughter tells the doctor that she is going to hurt herself or others, everything we discuss is private. In the state of Texas, treatment/discussion regarding sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy (but not birth control) can stay completely confidential. However, we always encourage teen girls to be open and honest with their parents. Teens know that their parents just want them to be safe and healthy, and although parents might be upset about even the idea of their daughters having sex, or experimenting with toxic substances, they would much rather be kept in the loop than in the dark.
So, help your daughter take control of her health and her future: check “First Gynecology Visit” off her to-do list today!