So it’s time for your first visit to the gynecologist! How do you know when it’s time to go? What can you expect? What questions do you need to ask? How can you make it an easier experience? For all women, their first visit to the gynecologist can be intimidating but I’m here to tell you it should not be scary or painful.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends scheduling the first reproductive health visit between the ages of 13 and 15. This may seem young but, in fact, most adolescents in this age range are experiencing significant developmental changes that are best addressed by her gynecologist. For instance, a common concern at this age is menstruation. What is the definition of “regular?” How heavy is too heavy? Why are they so painful and are there any treatments for the pain? Other common questions and concerns at this age relate to body changes happening because of puberty and, of course, those that relate to sexual health and contraception. Of course, women of all ages are encouraged to see a gynecologist yearly and so if it’s been over a year, it’s time to give the office a call.
So how does it all actually happen? When you come to our office, you will be asked to fill out some basic paperwork. Sometimes it’s helpful to have your parent or guardian present so they can help answer questions about your medical history that you may not know. We will take your vitals and then you’ll be on the way to see the doctor. One of the common myths about the first gynecologist visit is that we always do a pelvic exam. As the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists says, “an internal pelvic exam is often unnecessary during the first reproductive health visit.”
I meet my adolescent patients fully clothed and we will chat about your medical history and any problems you may be having. If there is a concern that requires an internal pelvic exam, don’t worry! I will talk you through the whole process. For this blog entry, I will keep it brief and just say that the key to a more comfortable pelvic exam is keeping your muscles relaxed. When you tense your muscles, you squeeze down on the instrument used to perform the exam, which is what actually causes discomfort. And just like that, it’s over!
Rest assured that when you come to see me, your privacy will be respected. While I encourage open communication between you and your parents, and can teach you some tools to facilitate those discussions, I understand that sometimes you just need a protected place to talk in private. I will always give you the chance to speak with me by yourself at the beginning of the visit. Then, if you’d like, we will bring your parent back into the room with you. My priority is your health and safety and I want you to feel as comfortable as possible in what can be a stressful situation.
I hope that this information helps to put you at ease and encourages you to prioritize your health by making an appointment for your first appointment with your friendly gynecologist!