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At what age should I start seeing a gynecologist?
First let’s talk about what a gynecologist actually is. A gynecologist (or gyno) a doctor who specializes in female health, specifically the reproductive organs. One of the things a gynecologist does is a regular physical exam to maintain female health.
So, what happens at this exam? Glad you asked. During this exam, the doctor will perform a pelvic exam where the vagina is opened with a speculum and the cervix (the opening to your uterus) is swabbed. This is called a pap smear which tests for cervical cancer. The doctor will also insert a gloved finger into the vagina to examine your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes for any abnormalities. While this exam is certainly no birthday party, you will be happy to know this exam is simple and not painful. It is normal, however, to feel a little uncomfortable or embarrassed during your first exam.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, back to your question. When should you go to your first gynecologist visit? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that girls start to see a gynecologist sometime between the age of 13-15. Yeah, I know that sounds early and that’s because it is. A visit this early is important because it is important to develop a relationship with a gynecologist. By doing so, when you need to discuss difficult topics such as birth control and sexual activity, you already feel comfortable with that provider. It’s also important for you to talk with your gynecologist about things such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexual transmitted diseases (STDs), diet, exercise and dating violence. Starting with your gynecologist early means you can educate yourself before you face any of these issues in real life. Planning and education are crucial for making smart decisions in your life.
You’ll probably be relieved to know that if you’re between the ages of 13 and 15, your first visit will likely not include a pelvic exam. Once you turn 21, you will need a pelvic exam and pap smear. You may need a pelvic exam earlier if you are sexually active, at risk for STDs or have other concerns such as pelvic pain.
Remember gynecologists are there to help educate you and keep you healthy so start early!
Have you already been to the gynecologist? How was your first experience? Another out there nervous? Let me know in the comments.
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