As a young woman, there are many new things you’re likely experiencing right now, including stronger emotions (good and maybe not-so-great), body changes, the start of your period (also known as menstruation or menses), etc. Chances are also high that you’re starting to hear about a lot of new things in school, including topics such as sex, sexual orientation, safety during sex, and you might have even heard by now about gynecologists (also commonly referred to as “Gyno’s”).
This can all be a lot to take in, and if you’re reading this blog then you’re probably at a place where you’re wanting to learn more! Educating yourself on all of these topics is so important at your age, as the knowledge you acquire will help you be healthier and better prepared for what your future holds. Plus, as the saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” This kind of knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions for your own health and body now and later.
If you aren’t even sure where to start- that’s okay! One of the most asked questions we hear is, “At what age should you have your first gynecological appointment?” Given the fact that you are now reading this blog, we’re guessing that’s one of the questions you’re hoping to have answered!
The simple answer is that you can have your first gynecology appointment around the age of 13, or when you start your period (even if you aren’t having sex).
Your First Gynecology Visit
If you’ve heard scary stories about getting a pap smear from older women and you’re nervous about that, we want to ease those fears right off the bat. First of all, pap smears aren’t recommended until you’re 21. Second, if you have a gynecologist you feel comfortable with, this can go a long way in making pap smears much more comfortable than the horror stories you may have heard. However, to put your mind at ease, you should know that you won’t get a pap smear at your first gynecology appointment if you are under the age of 21.
Your first visit to the gynecologist is going to be more similar to what you’re used to when you go to your regular family doctor. They’ll do a physical exam where they check your weight, height and blood pressure. The gynecologist will then ask you some personal questions that your regular family doctor probably doesn’t usually ask, such as how your body may be feeling and if you’ve noticed anything you’re concerned with, ask about your periods (are they regular, heavy, or painful?), and discuss your sexual activity. They may also do a brief breast exam, external genital exam, and partial pelvic exam to make sure there aren’t any obvious issues. An internal exam is rare unless you’re over the age of 21 or if you have a concern such as a possible yeast infection or something similar. You may also need to get a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection associated with cervical cancers, but you can talk to your gynecologist about this.
Your first visit is a great time to get comfortable with your gynecologist. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions, especially ones you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with family or friends. Your gynecologist is a great resource for you! They can answer any and all questions you have relating to your bodily health, reproductive system, sexual health, etc. Many young women will typically ask about puberty, their hygiene, STIs, mental health, contraception and protection during sex, their sexuality and lifestyle, and more.
How to Choose a Gynecologist
There are some things you’ll want to discuss with your parent or guardian before you choose a gynecologist, but also keep in mind that it’s okay to switch if you don’t feel comfortable with one that you visit. It’s important that you feel comfortable enough that you can ask questions and feel like your gynecologist really cares.
Here are a few things you’ll want to think about or discuss before you choose a gynecologist:
- Do you prefer a man or woman as your gynecologist? Younger or older?
- Would you like to stick with your normal family doctor or see someone new?
- Do you prefer someone who is connected to your parent or guardian or someone who doesn’t have a connection with them?
- How confidential do you want your appointments to be? Are you okay with the doctor sharing things with your parent or guardian or do you want it to be just between you and your doctor?
- Are you comfortable with it just being you and your doctor in the room at your appointments or do you want someone else there too (like a nurse or your parent/guardian)?
We have an incredible team of gynecologists at OGA that would love to meet with you and see if they’re the right fit for you. Talk with your parent or guardian about meeting with one of our doctors, or contact us yourself today to schedule an appointment!