The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that healthy young women begin seeing and establish a relationship with a gynecologist during adolescence, typically around age 15.
Initially “hands off,” these conversation-based visits provide an opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment before any active gynecological issues arise. Most young women are escorted by their mothers or another support person; however, they may choose to speak with the physician alone depending on their individual needs and comfort level.
The role of OB/GYNs in caring for adolescents is to help educate them about issues related to normal growth and development, including puberty; prepare them for expected changes in menstruation; discuss vaccines; and address social issues specific to women’s health. When appropriate, sexuality and contraception becomes a topic of discussion.
In addition to ensuring young women are well informed about their gynecologic health, early visits with an OB/GYN go a long way in helping them distinguish the types of care and services available, understand confidentiality guidelines, and know how and when to contact the physician for care.
The majority of concerns expressed by adolescents such as heavy or painful menses, unpredictable periods, acne and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can initially be addressed without an exam. While routine clinical exams and pap smear testing doesn’t usually begin until around age 21, specific issues, including concerns about infection, may warrant earlier examination.
When appropriate, speak with your OB/GYN about scheduling a “meet and greet” appointment for your daughter.
• Staci Mayer, MD, FACOG, is an OB/GYN and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk to your doctor or call Mayer’s Ahwatukee Foothills office at (480) 759-9191.