Growing up comes with a lot of firsts. Your first job, your first kiss and, for teenage girls, your first visit to the gynecologist. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that teenagers start seeing a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15 years old (assuming that no health issues have arisen before then) to begin a relationship with a provider. By establishing this relationship, your daughter will be able to see her gynecologist throughout many stages of her life. So what can you expect when you take your daughter to a gynecologist? Dr. Erin Stone, a gynecologist at Tryon Medical Partners, discusses her approach:
Use your daughter’s first gynecology visit as an opportunity to form a trusted relationship, particularly around the unique challenges that come with teenagedom.
Your daughter’s first visit to the gynecologist should be an opportunity for everyone to have a conversation, rather than focusing on the physical exam.
“At a patient’s first visit, I am just getting to know them, they are getting to know me, and my goal is to establish a relationship filled with trust and compassion. ,” Dr. Stone says. “We talk about periods being a vital sign to your overall health and discuss issues that come with periods, including acne, pain, breast discomfort and nausea.”
As this visit often centers around your daughter’s period (including whether she has gotten her first period, frequency of periods, etc.), you can expect that time will be spent talking about how your daughter’s period affects her quality of life. Is she experiencing pain that keeps her home from school or prevents her from doing activities? Are mood swings impacting her relationships? Your daughter’s gynecologist will likely use this first visit to elaborate on the correlation between her changing hormones and her mood.
Let your daughter guide the conversation, which should include a discussion about consent.
Your daughter’s gynecologist will use her visits as an opportunity to discuss consent, both within the exam room and outside of it.
“I talk about what consent is, from the exam room to relationships with peers. I want them to get comfortable with their body and telling others what they feel comfortable with,” Dr. Stone relays.
As she speaks with her patients and their parents, Dr. Stone lets them guide the conversation by providing open-ended questions to expand upon in any way they choose. Your daughter’s gynecologist will likely focus on topics based on what both you and your daughter wish to discuss.
Sex may come up; if you feel comfortable, allow your daughter to speak with her gynecologist privately about any concerns.
While your daughter may feel comfortable discussing sexual activity that she is curious about or already engages in with you in the room, know that it might be helpful to step out and allow her to speak privately with her doctor. In this situation, the intention is not to cut you out of the conversation; instead, this gives your daughter the chance to be open with a trusted medical professional. Dr. Stone talks about a number of topics around sexual intercourse and protection but never about topics that seem beyond their maturity level of her patients.
Dr. Stone recommends contraception options to her patients who are sexually active or are planning to become so. While there are many options, your daughter’s gynecologist will help her decide what would be best for her. These hormonal aides can also be used for things beyond sex, including helping establish a more regular cycle or get rid of acne.
Gynecological appointments can be important for issues other than your teenager’s period.
Beyond seeing patients about their periods, Dr. Stone notes that she is most frequently reached out to by parents and teenagers who are worried about vaginal discharge, breast concerns (e.g., breast pain, a history of breast cancer in the family) and polycystic ovary syndrome. Using her period (if she has had her first cycle) as a vital sign of the rest of her health, your daughter’s gynecologist will look into how her body is moving through puberty and also screen for other conditions, including eating disorders and mental health concerns.
Your daughter’s gynecologist will likely use a team-based approach to her care.
Helping your daughter make sure that she feels the best in her own skin can involve a team-based approach. Her gynecologist may want to connect with her pediatrician or a mental health provider to ensure that she gets the best care at the right times. Reach out to a Tryon gynecologist like Dr. Stone today if your daughter can benefit from establishing a relationship with a gynecologist.