Whether it’s a parent or a young person asking, I love answering the question about the “right time” to see a gynecologist for the first time.

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, when should a young person have their first gynecologist appointment?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends establishing care with a gynecologist between the ages of 13 to 15. This may seem young, 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 to be proactive and to answer questions about puberty, gender identity, birth control, bothersome periods, no periods, HPV or sexually transmitted infections.

Should you see a gynecologist if you’re not 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 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.

What can you expect during the first gynecologist visit?

You don’t have to have a pelvic exam!

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 age 21. 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.

Teens may wonder if this means they will have to discuss their sexual history. While a provider hopes to build an environment of trust so all patients feel comfortable sharing information that may impact their sexual health, there are no “required confessions.” Simply share what you feel comfortable sharing.

You also don’t have to bring anything to your first appointment—unless you’d like a parent or close friend present—or prepare in any way. And, regardless of when you begin getting pelvic exams, you never need to shave or groom before your appointment. That is a complete personal preference and choice; your provider won’t ever notice or judge you either way.

After your first appointment, you should see your gynecologist once per year.

Why do you need a gynecologist?

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, WHA providers look forward to seeing you and building a lifelong relationship of knowledge and trust that helps you manage your own reproductive health. Let’s get started!