When to Take Your Daughter to the Gynecologist
When I met with Dr. Beth Schwartz, a pediatric gynecologist at Jefferson Health, we couldn’t help but laugh recalling the way our mothers gave us “the talk” in our formative pre-teen years.
Ironically, being a pediatric/adolescent gynecologist doesn’t make having the talk with her own daughters any easier. That is precisely why Dr. Schwartz believes it is important to introduce girls to a gynecologist as soon as they have questions about anatomy, hygiene, periods and/or birth control.
“I have a lot of patients who have said, ‘can I just ask you,’ I’ve heard this from a friend’ or ‘I’ve heard this from my mom. Is that really true?’ And some of what they’ve heard is true, and other times it’s totally not,” explains Dr. Schwartz.
JL: So when is the right time to take your daughter to her first gynecologist visit?
BS: The official stance by ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) says that girls should have their first visit at age 13 to 15 to introduce the ideas of anatomy, puberty, birth control and infections.
I don’t totally agree. Girls should see a gynecologist at any age if there is a problem, meaning before puberty, if there are concerns about infections or skin conditions, or when they are seeking anticipatory guidance on puberty. It’s especially important for girls who have medical conditions that could be affected by puberty, such as epilepsy or migraines, which could worsen during puberty with the hormonal fluctuations. It’s also important for girls with disabilities/special needs who may have trouble verbally expressing discomfort or anxiety.
JL: Are there other good indications someone should see a gynecologist?
BS: Preferably before they become sexually active to talk about birth control options and prevention of infections, but definitely when they become active. Pediatricians or family medicine doctors may not feel comfortable having these kind of conversations with young girls, or may not be comfortable prescribing birth control or placing an IUD in a younger patient. I have seen many girls who have never had sex before who want to explore birth control options for either anticipation of becoming sexually active or for medical reasons like heavy/painful periods.