Puberty can be a challenging stage in a girl’s life. And as a parent, you may find it hard to believe that your little girl is becoming a woman. Still, experts say now is the time for a girl’s first gynecological exam visit—not a pelvic exam, but a consultation to assess her health and answer questions.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls have their first gynecologic visit between ages 13 and 15 and two “wellchild” visits a year thereafter: a general preventive visit and a dedicated reproductive health visit.
This first visit does not have to be with a gynecologist but can be with a family practitioner or pediatrician. If you are unsure if your daughter should have a gynecological check-up, your pediatrician or family doctor can help you with this decision.
Girls’ bodies will change during puberty; they may gain weight as they develop. However, excessive weight gain or obesity puts your daughter at increased risks for health issues and may cause your daughter to undergo puberty at a younger age. Likewise, girls with too little body fat or those who exercise excessively can have delayed puberty. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician if her puberty starts before age 8 or hasn’t begun by age 13.
What Happens on the First Visit
Typically, the first gynecological visit is more of a consultation and does not include a pelvic exam.
Patients may have a parent or nurse join them for any part of the exam.
The doctor will ask about her health, including questions related to her menstrual cycle, family and reproductive history, sexual activities
The doctor will provide health education and explain what to expect at future visits.
Patients can ask questions about any health concerns.
A general physical exam may be given including height, weight, BMI and blood pressure.
An external genital exam may be given.
Pelvic/internal exams are not typically given at this time, unless there are other health concerns or if the patient is sexually active.
There will not be a Pap test. ACOG recommends women have their first Pap test at age 21.
Getting Answers and Developing Healthy Habits
Puberty brings physical and emotional changes. Girls may have questions that they are too embarrassed to ask family members. Some girls may be nervous about gynecological exams or confused about the changes happening to their bodies. Taking your daughter to a health
care professional such as an OB/GYN is important, because it gives her the chance to build a relationship with the doctor.
Patients commonly ask questions about normal and abnormal development, sexuality issues, birth control, the HPV vaccine and their
menstrual cycle. In fact, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and painful or irregular periods are some of the most common concerns.