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When should I make a gynecologic appointment for my daughter?

This is a question that I have heard many times.  Of all the things that mothers and daughters have in common, the need for knowledgeable and compassionate medical care is one of the most important.  Unfortunately, the topic is somewhat difficult for most mothers to introduce to their daughters as there can be much anxiety on both parts about what a visit to a gynecologist might entail!

First, let me dispel a few myths.  It is recommended that a teen have her first gynecologic appointment somewhere between 13-15 years old.  NOT for her first pelvic exam; that usually occurs much later.  This first visit is designed to help your daughter establish a relationship with a health care provider that she feels comfortable with.  This is key in helping her to realize that it is important to seek regular medical care to help promote wellness with education that she needs to maintain good health and prevent potential problems.  This visit is a time for your daughter to ask questions that she may have about her menstrual periods and possible questions about sexual activity and prevention of sexually transmitted infections in a safe environment.  It is also time to discuss important topics such as HPV and the “HPV vaccine” and keeping herself safe.  Most teens at this age wish to have their parent/mother with them during this first visit.  I encourage and recommend that, but also allow time “alone” with her if she desires.

The “pap smear” is probably the best known part of a gynecologic visit but often is not the most important.  In fact, the pap is not even recommended until age 21, no matter when sexual activity has begun.  Of course, a pelvic exam can always be done without a pap IF your daughter wishes.  However, it usually is not necessary.  What is important is the establishment of the doctor-patient relationship.  Once that is established, your daughter and her physician will be able to cross that “pelvic exam” bridge when she is ready and it is appropriate.

Dr. Anne Rainville, MD, FACOG