Many women ask their gynecologist when they should bring their daughter for an appointment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls should have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15, even if they are not sexually active. If a girl is not experiencing any problems, it is called a well-woman visit, and it offers an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns a young woman might have. It is very common for girls to experience nervousness prior to their first gynecologic visit, but having information about the visit ahead of time can help.
Oftentimes if a girl is not having any problems, the first visit will not include a pelvic exam. This offers the opportunity to speak with the provider about any concerns or questions she may have. Some topics that can be discussed include period problems, sex, sexually transmitted infections, birth control options, weight, and emotional changes.
The provider usually starts by getting a medical history. This will involve lots of questions, some of which may be personal or uncomfortable if a young woman has not been asked them before. Questions about menstrual periods, pelvic pain, and sexual history can feel awkward, but they are very important in providing care. It is important to be honest with your healthcare provider so they have the right information to guide care.
There are different exams that can be done at the GYN office. The first is a general physical exam, where height, weight, and blood pressure are measured. Every patient will have a general physical exam at a GYN appointment. Depending on what other problems are going on, the exam can also include an external genital exam, a pelvic exam, or a breast exam.
An external genital exam is where the provider looks at the vulva. A pelvic exam includes an external exam, a speculum exam, and a bimanual exam. A speculum exam is where the provider uses an instrument to hold open the walls of the vagina so that the vagina and cervix can be examined. A bimanual exam is where the provider inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers inside the vagina and uses her other hand to press on the outside of the abdomen to check the reproductive organs. A clinical breast exam may be done if any breast problems are going on.
The pelvic exam may be awkward or uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. It is important for the patient to know that she is in charge during the exam and, if anything is painful, to let the provider know. If the patient feels uncomfortable about having the exam, a family member or close friend can usually be there for support. The patient should also know that there is no preparation needed for a pelvic exam. There is no need to remove pubic hair before a pelvic exam.
Depending on an individual patient’s history and symptoms, lab testing may be performed. Blood testing might be drawn in the office or at a lab. Sometimes a patient will leave a urine sample for testing. Vaginal swab or urine testing can be done to check for sexually transmitted infections. A pap test, which is the screening test for cervical cancer, is not recommended until age 21.
If you have any other questions about first GYN visits, a good place to start is to talk to your own provider about any further recommendations they may have for your daughter. Having a conversation with your daughter about the reasons for the visit and the topics she can discuss with a GYN provider is important so that she can be prepared and know what to expect beforehand.