Whether it’s a parent or a young person asking, I love getting this question. Establishing a relationship with a gynecologist during adolescence can give teenagers the opportunity to educate themselves about their bodies and the way they function and change with age in a way that is safe, confidential and accurate. Knowledge is power and this relationship can set the stage for young people to take charge of their own reproductive and overall health throughout life.
So what age is the right age? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends establishing care with a gynecologist between 13-15 years of age. This may seem young to many of you, but cultivating a relationship with an OB/GYN at this age can have a positive impact. Teens can start seeing a gynecologist at this age just to be proactive, or if there are questions about puberty, gender identity, birth control, bothersome periods, no periods, HPV or sexually transmitted infections.
A question I also hear a lot is “What if someone isn’t yet sexually active?” Establishing a relationship with a gynecologist prior to becoming sexually active allows a person to make plans to stay safe and healthy when that time comes. This may include counseling about contraception/birth control, administering an HPV vaccine, discussion of consent and safe sex practices or STI testing recommendations. The choices people make as a teenagers can have lifelong impacts and everyone deserves the power to make educated choices for themselves. A gynecologist can help answer some of the questions it may be hard to ask parents, teachers or even friends–and be assured the information is accurate and unbiased.
You don’t have to have a pelvic exam! A common misconception about the first gynecology appointment is that it will include a pelvic exam. For teenagers, a pelvic exam is not necessary unless there are specific concerns that can only be evaluated by an exam. Otherwise, this first visit will primarily be a conversation. Most of us associate a visit to the gynecologist with a Pap smear. While cervical cancer screening is an important part of reproductive health, Pap smears are not recommended until the age of 21.
There is a lot young people learn on the internet these days. And, not all of that information is reliable or accurate. While scrolling through TikTok can be a fun way to pass the time and there is some good information that can be found, there is also quite a bit of misleading and inaccurate medical information on the app. Having a relationship with a trusted OB/GYN can help a young person wade through that sea of information to figure out what is true for them and how to apply it in their life.
No matter the age or reason for your first gynecology appointment, we look forward seeing you and building a lifelong relationship of knowledge and trust that helps you manage your own reproductive health. Let’s get started!