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When should a girl start seeing a gynecologist?

Dr. Ellen S. Rome, MD
Pediatrician

Regular trips to the gynecologist are important for good health. In this video, Dr. Rome discusses the right age range for visiting the gyno for the first time.

Dr. Ashley B. Briggs, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Girls should start seeing a gynecologist at a surprisingly young age, says Dr. Ashley Briggs. Watch this video to find out when and why.

Nicole McHugh
Neonatal Nursing Specialist

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that females start getting Pap tests (a screening test for abnormal cervical cells) at the age of 21. Usually, a girl does not need to have a pelvic (internal) exam until then, unless she is experiencing some symptoms that may warrant an examination earlier than age 21.

However, it may be beneficial for a parent to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist or Nurse Practitioner to discuss things that may be difficult to talk about with your teens. Puberty, sexuality, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), drugs and alcohol are just a few of these! Providers that specialize in the field of gynecology are very comfortable talking to teens about these issues. And don't be surprised if the provider speaks to you and your adolescent together at first, and then asks to speak to the teen by themselves. This is not to conceal information from the parents; it is to provide information to the teen and answer questions that she may be uncomfortable asking in front of mom or dad.

Dr. Angela T. Valle, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Visits to the gynecologist should ideally start between ages 13 to 18. This may seem quite young, but we want to see young people before they leave home or become sexually active. By age 17, more than a quarter of teenagers have engaged in sexual intercourse. Data shows that during those first episodes of intercourse contraception and protection are often not used at all, which may lead to disease transmission and unintended pregnancy.

You can expect your first visit to the gynecologist to be largely educational regarding the reproductive system. The better you know your body and what's going on, the more likely you're going to be able to address problems as they arise and seek help and treatment if needed.

During your initial visit, your gynecologist may talk about your menstrual cycle and irregular or painful periods, and treat that if necessary. Your gynecologist is also going to screen for normal pubertal development, and treat you if there is anything abnormal. Education and counseling on safe sex practices and contraception will be given and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) counseling and testing will be conducted.

Often, a pelvic exam is not needed because, according to the Pap smear guidelines, you generally don't need a Pap smear until age 21. Your gynecologist will probably want to talk about the Gardasil vaccine if you have not already discussed it with your pediatrician or received the vaccine.

If contraception is needed, your gynecologist will talk about different birth control methods. Of note are intrauterine devices (IUDs), as they are now recommended for women regardless of age or pregnancy history. An IUD can be a good option for young women because it is practically foolproof and lasts for several years.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.