Even if you’re not sexually active, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that you go between the ages of 13 and 15, although any time after menstruation and before your eighteenth birthday is fine. If you’re sexually active, go as soon as possible!
And why should you go?
To have confidential discussions about sex, sexuality, menstruation, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases—pretty heavy stuff. It may sound like it will be an incredibly awkward experience, but here’s some information that may set you at ease:
- The first appointment is mostly about talking. To begin, the doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your health and lifestyle. They’ll go over your health history, like how old you were when you got your period and if you have any problems with it. They’ll ask about your sexual history, whether you’re sexually active or just thinking about it—and if you are, what birth control you use. They’ll also discuss your lifestyle: do you smoke cigarettes? Do you drink alcohol? Do you take drugs? Do you practice sexual behaviors that might put you at risk for STDs?
- You probably won’t need an internal pelvic exam. Unless you’re sexually active or having a medical issue, your physical exam will be external. The doctor will examine your outside genital area, your abdominal area, and your breasts. She or he is just checking for visible abnormalities, tenderness or lumps in your breast tissue. You shouldn’t need a Pap smear until you’re 21. As for the dreaded stirrups? They’re only there so you have a place to rest your heels and be more comfortable when you’re lying on the exam table. Many practices cover them with something soft.
- If you do need an internal pelvic exam, relax! You may know that this is when the doctor will use a speculum, either metal or plastic, to hold your vagina open so she or he can see if everything looks normal and healthy. Don’t worry—the speculum they use for teenagers is about the size of a super tampon. This part of the exam can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, speak up! After removing the speculum, the gynecologist will feel inside of you with one hand and press on your abdomen with the other. She’s checking to see if your fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries are in the right position and whether they feel normal. If any part of this process hurts, let the doctor know. And throughout, do deep, slow breathing and let your legs relax as best you can.
Remember, your doctor has seen and heard everything.
There is probably nothing you could ask or discuss that your OB/GYN hasn’t dealt with before. And everything you talk about is confidential. So go ahead and ask questions about your anatomy, your period, birth control, different sexual practices and anything else you might be curious or concerned about.
At Chouchani, Sayegh and Bagnarello, we know how strange that first appointment can feel. We’ll do our best to make sure you feel at ease. Please give us a call when you’re ready to make that first appointment.More