When Should Your Child See This Specialist?
When you bring your baby girl home from the hospital, you memorize when every well-child visit needs to happen, her upcoming vaccination schedule and a list of things to look for if you suspect a specialist is needed. What some parents and guardians not think about is when their child should see a gynecologist. In the past, this was a taboo topic and many parents objected to taking their child to see this specialist. Today, health care professionals are normalizing young women seeing a gynecologist in adolescence.
The Center for Advanced Pediatrics is here to explain the importance of an earlier-rather-than-later trip to the gynecologist.
Why would an adolescent female need to see a gynecologist?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls first visit a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15, regardless of development or sexual activity. This age aligns with the average age of when girls first begin developing and menstruating, which in the United States, happens around the age of 12 and 13. This first visit also aligns with when children should receive their first HPV vaccination.
The first visit an adolescent girl has with a gynecologist is mainly to establish a relationship with the doctor. It’s a chance to discuss how she is feeling physically and mentally with the change of hormones occurring within her body. It’s a chance to become familiar with this type of specialist and to normalize that a female seeing a gynecologist is a normal habit for reproductive – and overall – health.
There are also medical reasons to seek out this type of specialist for your young daughter. Just as you would make an appointment with an allergist to explore food allergies or a seasonal rash, parents will want bring their child to gynecologist if there are concerns with her development, such as:
- Your daughter is over the age of 15 and has not had her first period
- Periods are so painful they are debilitating, cannot be managed with over-the-counter medication and causing them to miss school and other activities
- An extremely heavy flow where she is changing feminine products every hour
- Irregular periods happening consistently either less than every 3 weeks or more than every 6 weeks
- Regular yeast infections are occurring
What happens during the first adolescent gynecologist visit?
The physical exam will closely resemble a well-child visit. Medical staff will take height, weight, blood pressure and temperature measurements. In the exam room, the gynecological provider will make the patient as comfortable as possible and ask basic questions about their menstrual cycle. If necessary, the doctor may conduct an external exam, with other medical staff in the room. Pelvic exams are discouraged on adolescent girls unless there is an extreme medical concern.
This appointment is also an important chance for your child to ask any question they may be too embarrassed to ask anyone else. It’s like your child asking a human version of Google their most personal questions, but answers are completely filtered to provide accurate, fact-based information to keep your child healthy and safe.
Thinking your child may not want to ask these questions in front of you – or you yourself may not be comfortable with these discussions? While this may be a difficult transition for parents, they are typically not in the room for most of the appointment. Your child may feel more comfortable – and be more honest – discussing their development and menstruation without a parent in the room. However, if your child discloses that she is being hurt in anyway, your doctor will quickly bring you into the conversation.
Reproductive health exams and conversations are a normal part of development.
Scheduling your child’s first gynecologist appointment may be a little awkward for both you and your child, but it is a normal part of females growing up and developing. If anything, this first visit will show your daughter all of her health is important to you, and will empower your child to be more involved with her medical care, to become more knowledgeable about her body and development, and to normalize seeing a gynecologist.
Do you have questions about making a reproductive healthcare appointment for your adolescent daughter? Call our office at 203-229-2000, schedule an appointment or reply to this email; we are happy to provide answers!