Many parents wonder about when their daughter should visit a gynecologist for the first time. Is it with her first period? Is it when she becomes sexually active? What about pap smears and pelvic exams? Some mothers dreaded their own first visit and worry their daughter will have a traumatic experience.
Dr. Audrey Roberts has good news: “Gynecological care for adolescents has come a long way. Many first visits don’t even involve a pelvic exam.” Dr. Roberts is passionate about adolescent health and wellness. Today she’s clearing up the questions that surround adolescent gynecology.
What’s the recommended age for a first visit?
While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women receive a pap smear by age 21, Dr. Roberts says it’s smart to see a gynecologist before then. “I encourage young ladies to establish a relationship with a healthcare provider,” she says. Many health concerns can be discussed with a gynecologist such as abnormal periods, mental health, sexual and relationship health, preventative screenings, and vaccines.
Why is it important to build a relationship with a doctor?
Patients who have a good relationship with a healthcare provider tend to take an active role in their health. “A big part of growing up is learning ‘what’s normal’ with our bodies,” says Dr. Roberts. “I want my adolescent patients to feel comfortable asking questions about their health.” And as teens mature into women, their gynecological needs change. Establishing care with an OB/GYN only becomes more valuable over time.
What are some reasons girls and teens can visit a gynecologist?
What is a first visit like?
Helping patients feel comfortable is a top priority for Dr. Roberts. Her office provides full-coverage gowns and drapes if a physical exam is needed. Patients can expect to receive education and are encouraged to bring their questions and concerns.
Dr. Roberts also prefers to see adolescent patients apart from their parents for a portion of the visit. “I value giving teens and young ladies some one-on-one time with assured confidentiality. We can talk about school, boys, music—whatever she wants to discuss.” Dr. Roberts believes privacy between a doctor and patient is important, especially if the patient is an adolescent.
Why are you passionate about adolescent health?
“Growing up, I had several friends who lacked open communication with good role models,” says Dr. Roberts. “Health issues like high-risk behavior, depression, and STIs seemed to correlate with that lack of support.” She adds that her two strongest female role models were her mother and her own gynecologist.
“My mom welcomed every conversation about puberty, my teenage years, and early adulthood—all free of taboos.” She adds “At age 17, I met my first OB/GYN and she was a rockstar! There was no pelvic exam during my visit and she made me feel so at ease. I continued to visit her throughout college. Having that supportive, caring source for healthcare and wellness was invaluable to me. I want to be that for my patients.”