People ask all the time “when should my daughter start seeing the gynecologist?”
And honestly, the answer actually varies on the individual young woman.
American College of OB/GYN recommends pap smears begin at age 21, regardless of sexual activity or not. But healthcare for adolescents is about so much more than simply the pap smear screening for cervical cancer.
For girls who are under 21, we see them as they approach puberty for discussion of what changes will occur in their bodies. We see adolescents for wellness and for problems related to their menstrual cycles, such as heaviness of flow and pain. We openly discuss abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, along with talking about smoking, alcohol, and drug use. These can all be difficult issues parents to talk about with their daughters and sometimes, it’s received differently coming from a healthcare provider. Gynecologists also talk with girls about relevant and available vaccines. Last, many teens start experiencing the emotional changes that occur as their bodies and hormones shift, and they are confused on how to deal with it. Pediatricians are wonderful doctors, but as teens transition out of childhood into womanhood, young women sometimes want to get established with a doctor who will be seeing them long term. In connecting with girls during adolescence, we develop a relationship where they can be open and comfortable as they grow to ask questions about their healthcare concerns.
Missy Jackson McMinn, M.D.