Regular visits to a gynecologist are incredibly important to a woman’s reproductive and overall health. When do you start?
When to see a gynecologist
The short answer is that it depends. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls schedule their first visit between the ages of 13 and 15 .
However, you may need to schedule your first appointment if something is concerning. This may include painful or irregular periods, unusual fluids, or no period by age 15.
What to expect during your first visit
The first visit to your gynecologist will probably be very different than your future visits. You may have someone in the room with you if you wish, but you will be asked to disrobe and wear a gown. You will have your weight and blood pressure checked.
A large part of the first visit is a conversation with you about your medical history, your overall current state of health, and your sexual activity. Your exams may include a breast exam and an external exam of the genital area. Your doctor may complete a pelvic exam, but some physicians wait until a follow-up appointment to perform the first pelvic exam.
You will also have an opportunity to discuss concerns with your doctor about things like birth control, periods and cramps, acne, weight issues, sexually transmitted diseases, and even mental health.
Your woman’s well exam may also include a urine test and a blood test to check for any abnormalities. Your visit is to not only assess your reproductive health but also your general health. In fact, some women choose to only see a gynecologist for wellness checks. A gynecologist can recommend specialists should you need one.
Before your visit
Before you visit the doctor, you do not have worry about shaving or waxing. Healthcare professionals are more concerned with providing quality care than with what you look like.
If you have a period when you are scheduled for an exam, then you may want to ask your clinic if it would be better to reschedule. Your doctor might want you to proceed with your appointment if you are experiencing any concerning symptoms that need to be addressed quickly, such as painful periods.
Having questions about your health is perfectly normal, and it should not embarrass you to ask. It is also important to be honest about your medical history, sexual activity, and drug or alcohol use. If you are sexually active, then you need to tell your doctor.
Your doctor is not there to judge you. They are there to give you the best medical care possible. To do that, they need to see the whole picture. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are common in younger women, which is why it is important to be open with your doctor and get tested regularly.
Pap test and pelvic exam
It is possible you have heard of a Pap test and have wondered if you need one, and the answer is that you do but probably not yet. A Pap test involves taking cells from your cervix and testing for changes that could indicate cancer. You will not need a Pap test until you are about 21, unless there is something abnormal in your medical history.
It is also possible that your first gynecologist visit will involve a pelvic exam. This means that your doctor will examine the outside of your genital area and possibly check the inside of your vagina. You may feel some pressure (not pain) as your doctor feels your organs such as your ovaries and uterus. Regular breathing can help you feel more comfortable.
How often should I see a gynecologist?
Once you have had your first appointment, you will be asked to schedule a follow-up appointment. Unless you experience anything abnormal, you should only have to visit your gynecologist once a year.
Choosing a gynecologist
You will likely continue to see the same gynecologist for years, so choosing the right one is an important first step. Think about whether you would prefer a male or a female doctor, and consider choosing a clinic that has flexible hours. If you are comfortable talking with your mother, then she might have a recommendation.
As a teenager, you do have the option of possibly continuing to see your pediatrician, but you will eventually need to transition to a clinic that treats adults.
When in doubt, call an OB-GYN
Your first gynecologist visit should ideally be when you are well, but you should not delay calling an OBGYN if something does not feel right .
For the first two years of menstruation, your periods will likely be irregular. However, if you become sexually active and you miss a period, then you will want to contact a clinic.
Periods should not be painful. If you are experiencing painful periods or irregular periods after two years of menstruation, then let your OB-GYN know. The presence of unusual fluids or extremely heavy periods may also indicate an underlying issue, and you should have your doctor run tests.
Our staff believes in the importance of treating women at all stages of life, and establishing a relationship with a gynecologist can lead to a healthier life.
Scheduling your first gynecologist visit for yourself or your daughter is easy. Contact The Woman’s Clinic today at 501-664-4131.