Most parents are a little uncertain about the right time and reason to take their daughter to a gynecologist for the first time.
Cooper obstetrician & gynecologist Saifuddin T. Mama. M.D., M.P.H., who specializes in pediatric and adolescent gynecologic services, provides these answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from parents:
Q. At what age should my daughter see a gynecologist for the first time?
A. The age for a first visit varies and depends on your daughter’s needs. It can range from the pre-menstrual years of ages 7 through 10, up to the age of 21. However, a first appointment can and/or should be made in these cases:
- If there are questions regarding puberty and development preceding the first menses.
- If a young teen wants to see a gynecologist to have her questions answered.
- If the mother feels that her daughter is ready or feels that an outside person may make answering questions regarding puberty, development, sexuality and safety easier.
- If there is a particular problem, for example very heavy first menses, which could imply a minor bleeding disorder; or irregular menses; or if there is continuing heavy menses; or very painful periods. Perimenstrual pain syndromes (cyclic pain and discomfort) are another reason.
- If the young woman has become sexually active and wants birth control, or if she just wants information on birth control because she is thinking of initiating sexual activity.
- If there is any concern regarding appropriate development internally, of the uterus, ovaries and tubes.
- If there is a possibility of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- If there is an incidental finding of an ovarian cyst with or without pain.
Q. Why does my daughter need to see a specialist in gynecology?
A. Obviously, gynecologists are specially trained in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and maintenance of gynecologic health in females. For younger patients – children and teens – a gynecologist with either an interest or training in pediatric and adolescent patients is preferred.
Q. What would my daughter’s first visit involve?
A. It is most important to note that your daughter’s first visit to a gynecologist does not automatically mean she will get an “internal” pelvic exam. Very often, good history-taking – for example, questions regarding initiation and timing of breast development, pubic hair, etc. – may suffice. A pelvic exam really is done on a case-by-case basis. This is very important in allowing your daughter to feel more secure and more comfortable about her first GYN visit. Also, a great deal of time is spent answering questions that may arise, as well as on an overview of puberty, development, sexuality and safety. Laboratory studies with a blood draw and a trans-abdominal pelvic ultrasound may be ordered. Vaginal probe ultrasounds of the pelvis are not ordered for young girls and teens.
Q. As a parent, what do I need to know before I bring my daughter for her first visit?
A. Firstly, come prepared. Bring with you a list of all of the questions that you and your daughter have, even the ones that you think might be simple or trivial. I assure you, they are not. Secondly, you must expect and allow your daughter to have private time with the doctor without your presence to allow her to comfortably express what might really be on her mind.