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For Teens – When to see a gynecologist

January 28, 2011

When do I need to go?

A gynecologist is a doctor who has been specially trained in women’s reproductive health issues. You should talk to a parent or guardian about seeing a gynecologist (or another doctor who is specially trained in women’s health issues) if you:

  • have ever had sex (vaginal, oral or anal) or intimate sexual contact
  • are 21 or older
  • have lower stomach pain, fever, and discharge (fluid coming from your vagina) that is yellow, gray, or green with a strong smell. These may be symptoms of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). PID is a general term for an infection of the lining of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or the ovaries. Most of the time, PID is caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea that have not been treated. Not all vaginal discharges are symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.

In between periods, it is normal to have a clear or whitish fluid or discharge coming from your vagina. It should not itch or be uncomfortable. It should not smell badly. Read more about what your vaginal discharge should look like. Your doctor will tell you when you need to come back for another checkup.

Why do I need to go?

Getting routine gynecology care will:

  • help you understand your body and how it works
  • establish what is normal for you
  • find problems early so they can be treated or kept from getting worse
  • help you understand why it’s healthier for you not to have sex while you are a teenager
  • help you learn how to protect yourself if you do have sex
  • help you prepare for healthy relationships and future pregnancies

Getting care on a regular basis is important. Your doctor will talk to you about how to take care of your changing body, how to tell if you have a vaginal infection, why abstinence is the healthiest choice, and how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections if you are sexually active. A doctor will also talk to you about your period and will help you out if you are having any problems.

How do I make an appointment?

Talk to your parent or guardian. Or, if you don’t think you can talk to your parent or guardian, talk to someone else you trust about how to make an appointment. It is common to feel nervous about going to a clinic, especially when you’re a teenager. But being scared is not a reason to skip out. Some of your friends may say they don’t need to go, but it’s the smart thing to do. A check-up is one important way to keep yourself healthy.

What happens at a visit?

Part of your first visit may be just to talk so you can get to know each other. Your doctor may ask a lot of questions about you and your family. You can also ask the doctor any questions you have. You don’t have to be scared or embarrassed. Many teens have the same questions and concerns. You can also talk to your doctor about:

  • cramps and problem periods
  • acne
  • weight issues
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • having the blues or depression

During your visit, your doctor will check your height, weight, and blood pressure. He or she may also do the following exams:

  • Breast exam – It is really common for young women to have some lumpiness in their breasts, but your doctor will check your breasts to make sure you don’t have strange lumps or pain.
  • Pelvic exam – The doctor will examine inside your pelvic area to make sure your reproductive organs are healthy. The doctor will check out the outside of your genital area (the vulva) and will then use a tool called a speculum to look inside your vagina to see your cervix. Try to relax and breath. Finally, the doctor will feel inside to make sure your internal organs feel okay. There will be pressure, but it should not be painful.
  • Pap test – If you are 21 or older or within three (3) years of your first sexual experience, you should have a Pap test. This test is done to make sure the cells in your cervix are normal. The doctor will lightly swab your cervix during your pelvic exam to gather cells that can be looked at on a slide at a lab. It is best to have a Pap test when you don’t have your period. If there are any problems with your cells, you will be contacted.
If you are sexually active, it is especially important to have a Pap test. The Pap test helps the doctor know if more tests are needed to see if you are infected with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Left untreated, this virus can lead to cervical cancer.

If it makes you more comfortable, you can have your mom, sister, or a friend stay in the room with you during the exam. If the doctor is male, a female nurse or assistant will also be in the room.

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