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Cap? Check. Gown? Check. Gynecologist???

It’s that time of year again. The time of caps, gowns, diplomas and humming “Pomp and Circumstance” to yourself as your perusing the graduation cards at Target (maybe that last one is just me  As young men and women leave high school and depart for the next chapter of their lives, there are inevitable changes that come with that graduation. As mothers, we want to make sure they are as prepared as they can be. But is a trip to the gynecologist on the same list as shopping for dorm furniture and getting your first credit card??

It happens all the time – a patient of mine will end her own annual with the question that most mothers of teenage daughters have on their mind at some point – “When should my daughter come to see you?”

The official ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology – the official governing body of OB/GYNs, setting our guidelines and standards of care) recommendation for teenage girls is for a visit to establish care with a gynecologist between the ages of 13-15. Gynecologists see young teenage girls for a variety of reasons. We deal with all sorts of problems with menstrual cycles – heavy periods, painful periods, irregular or absent periods. We prescribe birth control, both to improve periods and prevent pregnancy (I’ll pause for the collective shudder/cringe/disbelief just experienced by any mom with a daughter of any age). We screen for STDs. We treat vaginal infections and irritations, including yeast infections.

But what if a girl makes it to the end of high school without having seen a gynecologist? As a physician, I’m in favor of guidelines and recommendations, but as a mom, let’s be honest – it is easy to lose track of time and recommendations, especially if there are no concerns or issues to address. Between high school sporting events, high school concerts and productions, vacations, other doctor/dentist appointments, homework, school projects – it can be hard to find the time to squeeze in one more thing.

Here is my suggestion – a great time to have that first gynecologist appointment (or if she has been seen in the past, but it has been awhile since that last appointment) is this summer before starting the next chapter of her life. It is a great opportunity to get established with a physician who can care for her for years to come. And here is a main selling point – the majority of the time, this first appointment does NOT involve a pelvic exam (I’ll pause for the collective sigh of relief just experienced by any teenage girl who happens to be reading this).

So to all the moms stock piling the Kleenex for the end of summer, when you send your baby girl out into the world (my daughter is only 4 and I already know I’ll be a wreck 14 years from now), add just one more thing to this summer’s agenda. Make your daughter an appointment to see a gynecologist – either have her see your doctor or give us a call at Moreland OB/Gyn (we see a lot of teenage patients and are very comfortable talking your daughter through her first appointment). You’ll be sending her out into the world with the confidence to take care of herself and her own healthcare – and what wonderful final gift of her childhood that would be.

Until next time, be well!

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