Many concerned parents have questions about if and when their adolescent daughters need to visit a gynecologist. While there is no official subspecialty in pediatric and adolescent gynecology, there are many Ob/gyns that have an interest in taking care of younger patients and their obstetric and gynecologic needs. That said, most teenage girls do not need to have a gyn visit once they begin developing and having periods. Gyn visits are reserved for those girls that are having problems with their periods, having undiagnosed abdominal pain, problems with discharge or itching, or need counselling for birth control or sexually transmitted disease prevention.
Perhaps the most important gyn issue for the teenage patient is vaccination for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is the virus that causes abnormal paps, genital warts and cervical cancer. There are 2 vaccines on the market available for women and girls ages 11- 26. In order to prevent abnormal paps caused by HPV, it is important to vaccinate women before they are exposed to the HPV virus through sexual contact. That is why the vaccine is given to teenagers. It involves 3 injections over 6 months and can be given in a pediatric or gynecology office. While teenagers do not have to have actual Pap smears until age 21, HPV prevention is an issue even in the teenage years.
Other reasons to see the gynecologist as a teen are menstrual problems such as late onset of periods, irregular bleeding or heavy, long or painful periods. A young woman doesn’t have to suffer and miss school and activities because of bad periods. There are treatments that can help lighten periods.
Of course, some teenagers are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are. For these young women, it is extremely important to visit a gynecologist to learn about protecting themselves from pregnancy and from sexually transmitted diseases. These are real risks, even for teenagers, and are preventable with proper education.
In conclusion, even though routine gyn exam or Pap smears are not needed for teenage girls, there are many others reasons for a teenager to visit a gynecologist. We are happy to see teenage girls in a comfortable and confidential manner for their ob/gyn needs at our Mesa office.
Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist practicing general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions