Ahh, adulting (or, almost).
- Do you need a gynecologist?
- Getting to know you
- Next Steps.
The changes your body undergoes as you enter your teenage years can be exciting, confusing and a bit scary. From your first appointment (which is really just a chance for us to get to know each other) to deciding on contraception and learning how to be safe, you can count on us to help you make sense of it all and get started down the path of lifelong health.
Medical organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend establishing care with a gynecology provider around age 13 to 15—and we are happy to see teens during this time or even before. That said, many young people are comfortable with their pediatrician and prefer to receive all of their care from them until they are as old as 19 or 20. This is totally OK, too. The important thing is that you find a provider who is knowledgeable about reproductive health and who you feel comfortable going to with health concerns that are more personal, like puberty, menstruation and sex. Both gynecologists and pediatricians can help you with birth control, the HPV vaccine and screening and prevention of other sexually transmitted infections. If you have a problem that requires a gynecology specialist, such as heavy, irregular or painful periods; cysts or discharge your pediatrician will refer you to one.
Many young people are anxious about visiting the gynecologist and we get that. Don’t worry. Our goal is to put you at ease so your first visit here is mostly just a chance for us to get to know each other. It usually begins with a conversation with you fully dressed—and you may be able to stay that way for the whole visit. Your provider will ask you basic questions about yourself and your life and give you time to share your concerns and ask any questions you may have. Together, we’ll develop a plan for how best to manage your health. You probably won’t have an internal pelvic exam unless there’s a good reason for it. (Reasons could include unusual discharge when you’ve been sexually active or a lump on the outside of your vagina.)
You can talk with your provider about anything. Really. Nothing is off limits. And you can rest assured that your conversations with the provider and your treatment are completely confidential, even if you’re under 18. This means we won’t tell your parents or school anything unless you give us permission to. There is one exception: if we think there is a serious threat to your health, then we will tell your parent or guardian, but we’ll talk with you about this beforehand. Read more about Oregon law regarding minor healthcare confidentiality and consent >
Many teens come to their visit with a parent. It’s up to you to decide how involved your parent will be in your visit. You can choose to have them in the room for all, part or none of your visit. Most of our providers will ask the parent or other support person to step out of the room for at least some of the visit so you can talk privately. We encourage open communication among all parties, though—and we’re happy to share or help you share the results of the visit with your parent if you’d like us to.
Talk to your provider about how often they want to see you during your teen years. Behaviors, emotions and bodies can change a lot during this time and they may recommend every one to two years.
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When you take illegal drugs or use legal substances (including prescription medications) too much or the wrong way, you change the way your body and mind work. This can can lead to accidents that cause harm to you or other people, dangerous behaviors that put you or others at risk, disease and addiction. If you or your family are concerned about your alcohol, tobacco or other drug use, talk to your provider. He or she might suggest a referral to one of our behavioral health specialists.
Relationships are the personal connections and emotional bonds between people that are often formed and strengthened by mutual experiences. They can be family relationships, friendships or romantic relationships. Healthy relationships are free of physical, emotional or sexual threat or abuse. Ideally, they are kind, honest, respectful and emotionally supportive. Talk to your provider if you need help dealing with an unhealthy, stressful or abusive relationship.
The website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – this is a great resource for vaccination and disease screening and prevention recommendations.
Online resources for parents.
A blog about lots of topics for teens.
A website for teens, by teens.
A book (and now an organization) that's been around for decades, revised often.
A website about birth control and STDs.
A resource from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Great information about all aspects of reproductive health.