Going to the gynecologist can be stressful, but what happens when it’s your daughter’s vagina? When should she start going? What does the gynecologist do? Madge the Vag sits down with gynecologist Dr. Elizabeth Poyner to get all the answers because your daughter’s cooter is counting on you!
You’re a mom on top of all your daughter’s needs, but sooner or later (believe or not!) that’s going to include scheduling her first trip to the gynecologist. (Cue ‘Sunrise, Sunset.’) Just when are you supposed to do that, though? When she gets her first period? When she’s 18?
“That’s a very personal decision,” says Dr. Poyner, “I think when young women begin to have their periods, and have questions about menses and their periods.” It’s smart to start having conversations with your daughter about going to the gyno around that time and include her pediatrician in the convo, as well!
Need a more specific answer? “I always think right before college is a really great time to go to the gynecologist,” suggests Dr. Poyner. That way, she’ll have someone she can reach out to with questions about safe sex, birth control, and other sexual health questions.
After that first visit, Dr. Poyner suggests scheduling an exam annually. “It allows you to review good health habits,” she says, “It also allows you to look at some signs and symptoms – period pain, basically.” Remember that many conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, and hormone imbalances are easier to treat when caught early.
What should you know before escorting your kiddo to the gyno? Are you allowed in the exam room with her? “That’s a personal decision based on the relationship between mother and daughter,” says Dr. Poyner. Basically, if your daughter wants you in there, you can be.
So, what happens during that first, fateful visit? “Many times, we just converse,” reveals Dr. Poyner, “If a woman is young and she’s just had her period, we begin to talk about sex and safe sex. We also converse, especially after a young woman has her period, about how to manage painful periods, how to manage irregular periods, and what the expectations are.” Usually there’s no internal exam at that first visit. (Insert breath of relief here.)
How about pap smears? When do those start to happen? “We don’t recommend pap smears until a woman is 21,” says Dr. Poyner, “Because the risk of invasive cancer is quite low before that.” She does recommend yearly screenings for gonorrhea and chlamydia – the latter of which can be completely asymptomatic and can lead to infertility if not treated. Both can be tested through a urine culture.
“Once a woman becomes sexually active,” confirms Dr. Poyner, “We begin to talk about inspecting the genitalia, making sure everything is ok.”
When the time comes, consider taking your daughter to YOUR gynecologist, because having the context of family history is important. Good luck, Mama!
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