How to Prep Your Daughter for Her First Gynecological Visit
You can probably remember her first dentist visit: It didn’t matter how much you prepped and comforted her, she was still nervous about going. The instruments and chair looked scary, and she wasn’t convinced it wasn’t going to hurt. A young woman’s first gynecologic visit is much the same. She may feel a little uneasy, but if she knows what to expect from you, she may not feel so awkward and nervous.
The ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends that girls should have their first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 years and 15 years. But if your daughter is sexually active (or you suspect she is), and needs to talk about birth control and protection against STD’s, then you should schedule an appointment right away regardless the age.
Find the Right Doc
Your own OB-GYN may be your first choice for your daughter, but she may not be comfortable with him/her. Schedule a visit for an informal chat first. If your daughter is fine with your doc, great. If not, ask her pediatrician for a recommendation. He or she may be able to recommend a gynecologist that specializes in treating teenagers.
The Doctor Will See You Now
You may not remember your first GYN visit, or maybe you didn’t have one until you became pregnant. But you probably remembered the anxiety you felt when you went into the exam room and saw the table with the stirrups.
You can tell your daughter what to expect on her first visit. Besides the usual height, weight, blood pressure, and standard measurements, the OB-GYN, or more likely, the nurse will ask why she’s there and if there are any complaints. There will be medical questions about her period: When did she have her last period? Are her periods painful? Social history questions: Does she smoke? Is she sexually active? Does she drink alcohol?
Reassure her that some questions may seem embarrassing, but truthfully, her nurse or doctor isn’t shocked by anything. She should be honest with any questions she has so she can get the proper care.
Is It Confidential?
Laws vary from state to state, but in general, what your daughter tells or asks of her GYN is kept confidential. She may feel more at ease talking with her GYN, knowing that he/she is unlikely to not pass judgement or become emotional about such topics as sex and birth control. In general, your permission is not needed for STD testing. However, this depends on where you live. Your healthcare provider may be required to notify you about testing.
Open and honest conversational dialogue with you trumps any regulation. She should feel free to come to you to talk about anything. If you haven’t already talked about sex, birth control, and STD’s, do it now.
The table and stirrups aren’t conducive in putting a young girl’s mind at ease during her first visit. Convey that although the stirrups seem scary, they’re merely for her to rest her heels on so she can relax while the exam is being done. Remind her that she has the option to have a nurse, friend, or you with her for the exam. It’s very common to have a nurse in the room, and quite frankly, takes some of the focus off the exam for her. The nurse and GYN know how to put your daughter at ease. The exam will often start with having her breasts checked for lumps and the GYN will possibly instruct her on how to do a breast self-exam. Next, an external exam will be performed to check outside the genital area.
She won’t need to have an (internal) pelvic exam unless she is having pain with periods, abnormal bleeding, unusual discharge, or is sexually active. You’ll recall that this wasn’t the highlight of one of your visits, but it is truly nothing to be frightened of and it won’t feel as invasive, especially if you tell her what to expect. The best prescription here is to tell her to take a few deeps breaths. That will help relax her and make it easier when the GYN does the exam. Thankfully, it’s not a long exam, and the GYN will talk her through each step.
Has your teenage daughter had her first trip to the gynecologist? How did you help her feel more comfortable about the visit?