Many females are familiar with the routine yearly visit to their gynecologist, but for most, the annual exam did not begin until their mid-twenties. There are numerous reasons for encouraging women to keep their yearly gynecological exam, but these do not just apply to older women. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that female teens and young adults who have not yet reached their 21st birthday should follow a routine exam schedule as there are plenty of benefits from early attention to gynecological health. For mothers of teenage girls, it is helpful to know why these visits are necessary.
There are five primary reasons for females between the ages of 13-21 to visit an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN). Although the first visit may simply involve a talk covering family history, menstrual history, sexual activities, and what to expect during exams, future appointments will proactively address health, periods, sexuality and relationships, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.
While the female body continues to develop, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight and understanding of body changes. Visiting the OB/GYN while these occur makes the transition to womanhood occur more smoothly. Causes, symptoms, and treatment for things like urinary tract infections or vaginal infections are often discussed, leaving a teen more prepared to recognize issues needing treatment.
Females experience their first period anywhere between 10-15, often bringing questions and concerns with it. At a yearly visit, menstrual regularity can be discussed with a physician who understands and can offer help. These visits can determine is periods are normal, prescribe treatment for heavy or painful periods, or discuss ways to keep them regular. Additionally, symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) can be discussed and teens or young adults can find ways to deal with the uncomfortable side effects.
Sexuality and Relationships
As females move through their teen and young adult years, discussing relationships, sexual orientation, and safe sex are important to maintaining gynecological health. With a visit to the OB/GYN female teens can confidentially discuss safe and healthy relationships either males or females, discuss Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, or Asexual (LGBTQIA) topics. Appointments can also discuss body functions and prepare individuals for their first sexual encounter, while learning about safe sex practices.
Visiting an OB/GYN prior to a pregnancy can help establish which birth control method is right for an individual and discuss side effects of the various contraceptives. By having birth control methods in place during teen or young adult years, an individual can choose when they are ready to have a baby. Appointments can also test for pregnancy, inform on options if pregnancy is confirmed, and the doctor will also discuss how to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Seeing an OB/GYN during early teen years has as much to do with prevention as education. It is important to get tested for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus or other STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) if a teen or young adults has been sexually active, and it is good time to be vaccinated against HPV (human papillomavirus). For those not yet sexually active, early appointments can discuss how to protect against these diseases, and reiterate safe sex practices.
Young female teenageers or adults might feel they are perfectly healthy and have no need of gynecologist or obstetrician. It is important to remember visits starting between 13-15 years of age will help with information, prevention, or treatment of the body changes they will experience in the next few years. By explaining what will happen, talking about fears or concerns, and reassuring your daughter that everything discussed and experienced is confidential, you will help your daughter feel more comfortable in taking this first step to reproductive and gynecologic health.