What to Expect at Your First Visit
As girls grow into teens, it's important that they receive appropriate medical care from a doctor who specializes in the health care of women. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that young women have their first visit with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) between the ages of 13 and 15.
It is normal to feel nervous about your first visit. It may help if you talk about it with your mom, aunt, older sister, or someone else you trust who can help put your mind at ease. If you are still nervous at your appointment, let your provider know. She or he may be able to help you relax. Your very first visit may well be just a talk between you and your provider. She or he can tell you what to expect at future visits and give you information on how to stay healthy.
Many young women share the same health concerns that are a normal part of growing up. Establishing regular visits with a gynecologist serves at least three main purposes:
You can get accurate information and confidential answers to any questions you may have concerning your changing body, menstruation, and sexuality.
You can learn about adolescent body changes, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, and healthy lifestyles.
Your physician can address pelvic pain, irregular periods, and other issues.
What health concerns can I discuss with my gynecologist?
- Cramps and problems with menstrual periods
- Sex and sexuality
- Birth control
- Alcohol, drugs, and smoking
- Emotional ups and downs
Your visit to the gynecologist will involve discussing some very personal topics (sexual activity, birth control, pregnancy, drug and alcohol use). It is very important that you feel comfortable being honest with your doctor. At your first appointment, we will have you sign a confidentiality agreement that allows you to say what is okay to share with your parents and what you want to keep private.
Your doctor will ask a lot of questions about your menstrual cycle (your period), including how often you get it, how heavy or light it is, whether you have pain during it, etc. They will also discuss what is normal and abnormal about a menstrual cycle.
Contraception (birth control) is used for a variety of reasons: to prevent pregnancy, control heavy periods, lessen cramping with periods, and acne control. There are many birth control options available which your doctor will discuss with you:
- Birth Control Pills
- Vaginal Ring
- IUDs (Intrauterine Device)
STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are infections that are passed between partners during sexual activity. If you are sexually active, your doctor may recommend screening for STIs. This is done with a pelvic exam, urine test, and/or a blood test. You are able to request STI screening at any time if you are concerned about a possible exposure.
You may have certain exams at the first visit that are new to you. If you would like, a nurse or family member may join you for any part of the exam. Most often, these are the exams performed at a first appointment.
General Physical Exam
A health professional will check your height, weight, and blood pressure. If you are having any health problems, the doctor will examine you for those.
External Genital Exam
Your doctor will look at the vulva. She or he may give you a mirror so that you can look at the vulva as well. This exam is a good way to learn about your body and the names for each part.
Internal Pelvic Exam
You usually do not need a pelvic exam at your first visit unless you are having problems such as abnormal bleeding, pain, or if you are sexually active and need testing for STIs.
A Pap smear is a swab of the cervix that screens for abnormalities related to HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. All patients have their first Pap smear done at age 21. You will need a pap smear screening even if you have completed the HPV vaccination in the past. (The HPV vaccination protects the body from some strains of the virus, but not all).
The video below explains what to expect during your first Pap Smear.