I have a 14-year-old daughter. When should she start seeing a women’s health care provider?
There are a few circumstances that would mandate a gynecology visit for young teenagers:
- if she was having very painful or heavy periods (changing pads more than once an hour during heavy flow days);
- if she had not begun menstruating by age 16;
- if she were sexually active.
Pap smear guidelines have recently changed–the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pap smear screening by age 21 or within 3 years of initiation of sexual intercourse.
Despite these guidelines, I feel it is important that young women establish care with a gynecologist or women’s health care provider–sometime between the ages of 14-17. Even with great parenting and open communication, teenagers will not always be honest about sexual activity. Having a connection to a women’s health care office provides an additional resource for questions about anatomy, reassurance on body changes and periods, good health habits, and pregnancy prevention. Some of these issues are not immediately relevant to many of the young women I see in the clinic; I always emphasize that patients can call me when questions arise or circumstances change. Young women will make better decisions if they have the opportunity to be informed about their health.