Your daughters, nieces, or granddaughters have grown up healthy with regular well-child visits to their AltaMed pediatrician. As they get older, regular well-woman exams should become part of a girl’s health care routine. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the first visit first visit to a gynecologist happen at age 13-15.
Girls typically have their first period by that time, so it becomes important to see a doctor specializing in women’s reproductive health. At this age, girls may feel self-conscious about their bodies but parents and guardians can play a huge role in affirming positive body image and make the experience less stressful.
How to help
It’s important that you build a bridge of trust between your child and her health care provider. The goal is to see her gynecologist as someone trustworthy who can help her manage her health as she grows older.
You can arm her with some tools to help her feel confident and comfortable during the visit.
- Expectations — Let her know what will and won’t happen. There will be an exam, but it will be mostly visual. There won’t be a pelvic exam unless there is an issue that needs to be addressed like heavy bleeding or pain.
- Questions — She is bound to have some, so encourage her to write them down and not be afraid to ask anything.
- Roles — Ask if she wants you with her during the exam. You don’t want her to be afraid to talk honestly with the gynecologist. It might be reassuring for both you and your child if you’re there with her, but there will probably be a time when the gynecologist will want to speak with her alone.
- Family history — Make sure she knows any conditions of close family members so her gynecologist can decide whether or not she needs preventive screenings.
- Honesty — Remind her that the gynecologist is there to help her, not judge her. Honesty truly is the best policy, so her gynecologist can recommend and provide the best care for her.
What will happen
Most gynecological exams for teens involve a lot of questions and answers — especially at the first one. Let your child know these questions help the gynecologist address any issues so she should be honest.
The exam will be a lot like the physicals she’s used to. They will take her weight, measure height, and take her blood pressure. She will need to get undressed and put on a gown. The gynecologist or nurse will then do a visual exam of her breasts and genitals. Some gynecologists provide their patients mirrors to see what the doctor sees.
Pelvic exams or Pap smears won’t happen until she turns 21, unless she is having issues. She can be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if she is sexually active.
You and your child may fill out a questionnaire before the exam asking:
- The date of her last period
- Any health conditions
- Lifestyle (smoking, drinking, drug use)
- Family health history
- Sexual activity
- Birth control use and type
Answering honestly helps your child get the best possible care.
AltaMed Has the Doctor for You
Women, no matter how young, have unique health needs. AltaMed provides pediatrics, primary care, and specialists like dentists, behavioral health services, and a pharmacy, all dedicated to care for women and those they love.
If you don’t have a regular gynecologist or you would like to find someone who speaks your language, AltaMed is here for you. Use our Find a Doctor tool to search based on your preferences. You can choose the gender you and your child are most comfortable with, preferred language, and the city. You will find great AltaMed doctors who can keep you and your whole family healthy.