August 14, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Louisa Essandoh, M.D. contributes to topics such as Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Making sure your children go to the necessary doctors’ appointments is part of being a parent. If you have a daughter, there will come a time when you’ll have to plan for her first appointment with the gynecologist.
Everyone’s relationship with their daughter is different, but it is completely normal to feel a little nervous or uncomfortable about this important step in their physical health. The below 8 tips will help you tackle this important health check so that you both feel calm and prepared for the appointment.
1. Make Sure Your Daughter’s the Right Age
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends girls start going to the gynecologist between 13 and 15 years old.
2. Talk About What’s Going to Happen
Unless your daughter is sexually active or has symptoms of concern, such as abnormal bleeding or painful urination, a pelvic exam won’t take place until your daughter is older (the ACOG recommends age 21). During her first visits, the gynecologist will do a wellness check (likely checking height, weight and blood pressure) and will talk to her about development. This is a good time for her to establish a comfortable relationship with the doctor, encouraging healthy behaviors and open dialogue. This may also include a breast exam to check for any abnormalities, as well as teaching your daughter how to properly perform a self-breast exam.
3. Talk to Her About Pelvic Exams
Whether it’s one of your first gynecologist appointments, or your 31st, pelvic exams are never fun, but they are important. Talk to your daughter about when pelvic exams will take place and why.
Explain that there is nothing to be scared of with getting a pelvic exam, and that this type of exam consists of three parts:
- Looking at the vulva, also known as an external genital exam.
- Using a duck-billed device called a speculum, the physician will look at the vagina and cervix. If a Pap smear is needed, it will be performed during this part of the exam. During a pap smear, the doctor will take a sample of cells from the cervix to check for abnormal changes in the cervix that could lead to cancer.
- Checking the internal organs by the doctor placing one or two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina and up to the cervix while the other hand presses on the abdomen from the outside.
“There is no need for you or your daughter to be concerned over the use of the speculum,”says Louisa Essandoh, M.D., an adolescent gynecologist at Hackensack Meridian Health. “It is rarely used for adolescents, and it is only in a few specialty cases that an adolescent will need to have a speculum exam.”
It is possible that the doctor may only perform an external genital exam, where he/she will look at the vulva to check for signs of cysts, abnormal discharge, irritation, genital warts and other issues.
“If your daughter receives an external genital exam, encourage her to ask the gynecologist for a hand mirror so she can follow along during the exam,” says Dr. Essandoh. “This is a great way for her to familiarize herself with her body and become aware of what to look for in case any issue develops.”
4. Schedule the Appointment for the Right Time
Depending on the type of exam that’s taking place, you may want to schedule your daughter’s appointment during the middle of her menstruation cycle so she’s more comfortable. Menstrual blood can affect the results of some tests so check with the doctor’s office to see if your daughter needs to reschedule if she has her period during her appointment.
5. Offer Your Daughter Privacy
Family members are not typically invited into the exam room, however, you can request their presence if you’d like. Let your daughter know it’s her choice. Physicians of the opposite sex typically have a chaperone (i.e. a nurse, or an assistant) who is female present during the gynecological exam. If a chaperone is not present and one is not provided once requested, let your daughter know she has the right to refuse the exam.
6. Encourage Your Daughter to Speak Up
Most first appointments are focused on discussions between the patient and the doctor.
“Let your daughter know that the doctor will likely ask a lot of questions about family history, menstruation and sexual activities,” says Dr. Essandoh. “Though some of these questions may seem personal, let your daughter know how important it is to be open and honest with her doctor. All of the information shared will be kept confidential and is used to inform the doctor how to best keep your daughter healthy.”
7. Use the Opportunity to Talk About Safe Sex
Sometimes parents as much as kids dread “the talk” about the “birds and the bees.” Preparing for a gynecological appointment is a good, natural segue into reminding your daughter about the importance of safe sex. Let her know that if she is sexually active, gynecologists can check for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and if she’s considering becoming sexually active, she should discuss birth control options with the doctor.
8. Read Up On Vaccines
Depending on various factors, the gynecologist may recommend your daughter get any of the following vaccines:
- Tetanus–diphtheria–pertussis (Tdap) booster
- Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV)
- Meningococcal vaccine (Menengitis)
- Influenza (flu) vaccine (yearly)
In addition to routine vaccines, special vaccines may be recommended to young women who are at an increased risk for certain diseases, such as:
- Hepatitis A virus vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumonia)
“If you still feel nervous by your daughter’s first gynecology appointment, talk to the gynecologist about your fears,” says Dr. Essandoh. “Talking through your concerns can help you feel more comfortable.”
Next Steps & Resources
- Meet our source: Louisa Essandoh, M.D.
- Need a doctor? Visit our website to find one near you or call 800-822-8905.
- Questions You Shouldn’t Be Too Embarrassed to Ask Your OB/GYN
- Should You Be Doing Breast Self-Exams?
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.