March 23, 2021
There are so many wonderful experiences to share with your daughter when she is a young teen. While getting her ready for her first gynecology—or well woman—checkup probably isn’t at the top of your mother-daughter bonding list, it’s so important to talk about this important step in her health care. After all, you are still probably the person she trusts most, and how you approach this discussion can impact the way she cares for her body for years to come.
When to Start the Conversation
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends girls have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15. There are several options to consider when selecting a provider your daughter will feel most comfortable seeing. Discover if she would prefer:
- A male or female
- A younger or older person
- Her current pediatrician or family medicine provider (if they provide women’s health care) or an obstetrician-gynecologist
- The same provider you see, or someone not connected to you
Explain the Why and Be Honest
Be honest with your daughter. Let her know why this visit is necessary:
- She can get answers to questions about sex, her changing body, and her menstrual periods in a confidential, non-judgmental environment.
- She can learn about pregnancy prevention, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and healthy lifestyles.
What to Expect
Your daughter may feel nervous, embarrassed or scared about her first visit, so you’ll want to reassure her and let her know what to expect.
The visit may just be a talk with the doctor and a general physical and external genital exam. It’s also good for her to know that her doctor may do a breast exam and ask her about her health history and menstrual cycle.
Unless your daughter is experiencing pain or abnormal bleeding, she probably will not have a pelvic exam, but it’s still important to understand what it is. Let her know the exam won’t be painful, but may be uncomfortable.
A Pap Test
Although not normally recommended until she is 21, this is also a good time to talk about a Pap test, which tests for cervical cancer. Her provider may ask if she has gotten the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine which protects against the main types of HPV that cause genital warts and some types of cancer, especially cervical cancer. If she hasn’t, the provider may offer it. Even if your daughter gets the HPV vaccine, she should still get regular Pap smears starting at age 21 to screen for other forms of cervical cancer.
OK, you did it. Congrats! Don’t forget to lead by example and schedule your own well-woman visit.