Coming of Age
If you are a parent, this information may be useful to share with your young daughter. A gynecologist is a medical professional that specializes in female reproductive organ health. Many also have medical degrees in the related field of obstetrics to assist with pregnancy and childbirth. They often identify as an ob-gyn for short.
Some patients are more comfortable with a doctor of the opposite gender. Others identify more with someone of the same gender. Educational requirements are the same, so doctors of either gender have comparable qualifications. A female nurse will usually accompany a male doctor.
Parents should schedule the first gynecological visit near the average age that female puberty begins. This is manifest by formation of breast buds, genital hair, and/or menarche—usually in that order. For most children, this is between 13 and 15 years of age. Even if the first menstrual period has not begun by age 15, schedule a visit.
The rate of growth and mature appearance of breasts and sexual organs varies among each female. Guidelines published in Pediatrics advise that girls who start to develop breasts and pubic hair at age 6 or 7 years are not necessarily abnormal. It is not uncommon for a young new patient to have many questions about whether her development is normal.
What To Expect
Common emotions during the first visit range from excitement to fear. The doctor will try to minimize nervousness. It is generally understood that gynecologists assess external genitalia and look within the vagina for abnormalities. But this is rarely the case during first visits.
More often than not, the first visit is a consultation without a pelvic examination. Just in case, thoroughly clean from head to toe so there are no embarrassing odors. The exam includes personal and confidential questions about sexual activity, menstrual periods, vaginal health, and other stages of puberty.
As a new patient, ask questions and learn what to expect during more comprehensive future exams. There may be visual aids. The doctor offers common immunizations on the first or visit.
Girls who are sexually active prior to their first gynecology visit might receive prescription medications. When there is abnormal bleeding or other signs of concern, the initial visit may include a visual assessment of genitalia. The doctor explains each action so there are no surprises.
Mothers can provide support during this important transition to adulthood. The small number of children born with ambiguous genitalia should be prepped well ahead of their first gynecology visit. In households without a female parent, girls might confide in aunts, grandmothers, or other mature friends. A good gynecologist can also become an important confidant.
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