For young women or teens, their first visit with their gynecologist should be an opportunity to answer any questions they may have about how their bodies work and their sexual and reproductive health.
Medical Advisor Lina María Congote OBGYN, Child and Youth Specialist
The three main objectives of an initial visit with a gynecologist is to inform, prevent and educate as well as provide any necessary treatment. Ideally, this initial appointment should be for girls between ages 11 and 15, preferably before they get their first period, or if the parents or the pediatrician notices any abnormalities.
An initial appointment with a gynecologist can be anxiety-inducing or nerve-wracking for the girl or teen; however, this visit is helpful to ask question about the changes and needs that she begins to experience with the onset of puberty; questions that she may be uncomfortable or scared about sharing with her parent or guardian.
“This phase marks a passage from childhood to adolescence. It is a time of tremendous growth, but it is also a period of risk, where social contexts can greatly influence her. Many youth experience peer pressure to drink alcohol, consume psychoactive substances and have sex, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),” states Lina María Congote, OBGYN and child and teen specialist. Congote works at the Valle del Lili Foundation in Cali, Colombia.
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Establishing a relationship
For Congote, providing specific and confidential answers to any questions about changes in the body, how the body works, prevention, sexual and reproductive health, and different birth control methods can be critical for future decisions about dealing with an adult sex life maturely. “Teens do not access counseling and healthcare services easily, which is why it is important to give them options that allow them to ask for guidance and connect them with specific programs, depending on their needs. The idea of this initial appointment is to provide them with support as they mature sexually and learn about their menstrual cycle, and to engage them in the topic of sexuality and birth control in the future. This is about fostering a physician-patient relationship and for her to understand that these appointments should be made regularly throughout her life,” she adds. Congote provides a few tips about seeing a gynecologist for the first time.
Frequently asked questions
- What do you talk about with a gynecologist?
The first visit is mostly for the doctor to get to know the patient, establish a medical record specific to gynecological health and to determine what steps should follow. Testing may be conducted if the teen has already had sexual intercourse or has menstrual problems, pain, or symptoms of infection.
- Should parents go?
The patient can go by themselves or with their parents. The gynecologist must protect their patient’s right to confidentiality; however, if the gynecologist notices that the patient is at risk of something, they are required to share this information. Their priority is to ensure that their patient is informed and participates in making decisions within the options available to them.
- What is included in a physical exam?
Generally, this involves weighing the patient, and taking their height and blood pressure. A breast exam should go along with their annual exam when the mammary glands are in optimal condition. A pelvic exam has three parts to it: an inspection of the vulva or the external part of the genitals, an analysis of the vagina with a speculum and a physical exam of the internal organs.
- What can you talk about?
This appointment is important to learn about the vaccines that should be administered and to discuss the rights teens have over their sexual and reproductive health in regard to practicing an unrestrictive, satisfying, responsible and healthy sexuality and to preventing pregnancy.
- What role do mothers have?
When mothers have a trusting relationship with their daughters, this is generally conducive to initiating this process. It is important they prioritize dialogue and good communication so that the relationship with the physician is a positive one •
Keep in mind
Breast development begins at about age 10 and a half. With some girls, however, this begins up to one year before or after this age.
A girl’s first menstrual period, or menarche, happens at about 12 years and 7 months on average.
3 months after an initial appointment, is when the follow-up appointment should be held.
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